Although black bears are large, powerful animals who are well equipped to eat meat, they are actually omnivorous eating a variety of plant and animal food items. Bears in the Southern Appalachians primarily feed on grasses and fruit during spring and summer, and acorns, beechnuts and other hard mast in fall. The remainder of their diet consists of insects and other invertebrates, as well as dead animals discovered while foraging.
Bears have poor eyesight and depend on a well-developed sense of smell to help locate both food and danger. Unlike members of the cat family, which have the ability to display or hide their claws, bears have large non-retractable claws useful for climbing, gathering food, and defense. Black bears can also stand erect on their hind legs and walk on the soles of their feet rather than just the toes.
Black bears are excellent climbers and can scale most trees for food or protection. Surprisingly, despite their short legs and chunky appearance, they can run in bursts of speed up to 30 mph, but only for short distances. They prefer to slowly wander over large areas in search of food, and in the case of males, a mate.