Tim writes: this was a close encounter with a female Black Bear. She had twin year-old cubs with her too (see below) but at this point she was so close I could only manage a head and shoulders shot. I stumbled across them by the roadside at Coal Harbour right at the north end of Vancouver Island. It was raining at the time, as it so often is in that part of Canada, so you can see a few raindrops against her fur.
American Black Bears only occur in North America but occur as far south as Mexico. They used to occur throughout but are now patchily distributed in sparsely populated, usually forested areas. There are many described subspecies and this is Ursus americanus vancouveri, which is found only on Vancouver Island. Even on Vancouver Island they are largely restricted to the northern half, though occasionally they wander southwards. They are omnivorous and 85% of the diet is vegetation, though they eat fish, carrion, insects and occasionally they catch and eat deer, mainly fawns. Despite the name they come in a variety of colours ranging from fawn through brown to black. The bears on the west coast are usually jet black, occasionally with a white chest marking.