Twenty-four serum chemistries were measured in blood samples collected from 20 adult female black bears (Ursus americanus) and their offspring, including 14 yearlings and 37 cubs, in northeastern Pennsylvania during winter 1984. Four other captive adult females were bled before, during, and after they were subjected to unseasonably warm temperatures during February. Levels of serum urea nitrogen (SUN) and creatinine were lower (P < 0.05), and iron was higher (P < 0.05) in male cubs compared to female cubs; serum chemistries were similar (P ≥ 0.05) between sexes for yearlings. Total protein, albumin and creatinine levels increased with age of bears, whereas chloride, alkaline phosphatase, potassium, inorganic phosphorus and SUN/creatinine were higher (P < 0.05) in cubs than in yearlings and adults. The relatively high serum calcium in cubs was probably related to rapid bone development and dietary intake of calcium during winter dormancy in cubs. Low serum calcium in adults was attributed to lactation and a lack of dietary intake. Urea/creatinine ratios averaged 5.5 and 4.6 for yearling females and males, respectively, 6.3 for adult females, and 29.0 and 22.8 for female and male cubs, respectively. Levels of serum chemistries of black bears apparently are relatively stable during winter denning, when bears are without food or water and do not urinate or defecate for several months. This stability indicates that black bears are resistant to the extremes in extrinsic environmental conditions. Abnormal blood chemistry values may indicate metabolic stresses that are not being controlled by bears. Three of four captive bears subjected to warm temperatures in February showed a decrease in glucose and SUN and apparently were dehydrated during the temperature crisis when the animals became restless and attempted to escape. The reference values presented in this report should be useful to develop and evaluate health profiles of black bears in various ecological conditions.
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Vol. 24 • No. 3