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Are Bears Colorblind?



Bears are NOT colorblind.

More Info: In various studies, scientists have concluded that both black bears and polar bears can see colors. Since much of the diet of many bears consists of fruits and berries, being able to see color probably aids in their search for food.

Tests with Black Bears

Researchers from the University of Tennessee came to the conclusion that black bears can discriminate between different shades of the same color. Two bears were conditioned to associate food with a specific color, one with shade of blue and the other with shade of green. Researchers made sure that colored food containers were sealed tightly to prevent the bears from using their outstanding sense of smell.

After the bears learned which container color meant food, the researchers used identical containers in differing shades. Each bear had little problem distinguishing between similarly shaded containers.

Since colorblind people often see colors as different shades of gray, the study did its best to ensure that the different colored containers would all be perceived as a single shade of gray. In the case that the bears were color blind, they would not be able to use shades of gray to determine which container to choose.

Reviewing the project, the researchers compared studies done with other animals. They noted that color identification was clear and that the bears learned very rapidly, choosing with few errors. They noted that the bears learned more rapidly than chimpanzees and as fast as dogs. The study indicated that color perception is probably an important part of the bear’s visual perception.

Tests with Polar Bears

Tests done with captive polar bears were very similar. Ice blocks of different colors were thrown into the enclosure. The bears quickly learned which block colors consistently contained food and which colors were consistently empty.

Not only did the bears perform better than pure guesswork would account for, when the colors were reversed, the bears quickly discovered the change and quickly made the change to the new color.



“Testing Bears’ Color Vision, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.” Home Page, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

Brown, Gary. “Senses of the Black Bear.” Black Bear Viewing at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary – The American Bear Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

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