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Bear - Basic Information

The bears available to hunters on the North American continent range from the Alaskan Brown (averaging 800 pounds live weight, and they've been known to reach 1,600 pounds), through the Grizzly (which actually can be colored from light cream to black), to the smaller American Black Bear (which isn't really black but may be cinnamon, dark brown, blue-grey, or cream) and will range from 200 to 500 pounds live weight.

As with any game, the young animals are much more tender and, in the case of bears, much more tasty. While bears are still in the juvenile stage their diet consists mainly of berries and roots. When bears reach 2 years, they turn omnivorous, eating fish from streams if available and even eating carrion. It's quite common for a bear to prefer a "high" garbage pail to a fresh meal. While the eviscerating of a bear is one of the most unpleasant chores in game cleaning, it is wise to check the stomach contents; if there is a sign that the bear has been eating fish, keep it in mind. That fish taste will be in the flesh when you eat it. Heavy seasonings and use of many herbs can help to some extent, as can marinating, but the fish taste is still there.

If you question the age of the animal, check the claws and teeth. Both are sharper in young animals. Since bears can be subject to the trichinosis parasite, the flesh should always be well cooked. This is not much of a disadvantage however, since even young bear is tough if cooked rare. Only young bear, incidentally, does not require moist cooking.

Bear should be hung for at least a week before cutting. The usual cuts are from the saddle, loin, haunch, and ribs. The paws of young bears are considered a delicacy by some. To skin bear-paw pads, hold over an open fire until the skin on the pads blisters, then peel off. Cut off the nails.

The heavy body fat can be stripped off and rendered. This a traditional dressing for leather goods, and many western cooks prefer to use bear fat in cake baking although personally I don't care to use it that way.

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