When my far distant ancestors arrived in central Europe somewhere around 40,000 years ago they had a neighbor, the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus). Cave bears were huge compared to the black bears that inhabit northcentral Pennsylvania. The largest male black bears can top 700 pounds, but large male cave bears apparently weighed 1,800 pounds, truly gigantic.
Cave bears evidently spent a lot of time in European caves, hence the name, and became extinct around 24,000 years ago when continental glaciers reached their maximum extent. The bears' preferred habitat is reported to have been low forested hills in central and southern Europe.
What do cave bears have to do with the natural world of northcentral Pennsylvania? Nothing really except the photos I recently downloaded from the camera trap I set at the entrance to a small cave brought cave bears to mind.
Here are some of the photographs from just one day in late November -
Two days later the bear returned to the cave and exhibited some of the same behavior and apparently never entered the cave -
Although not as large as the largest black bears my camera traps have ever recorded, and those were nowhere near the size of the largest black bears ever documented, he was a fair sized animal and probably weighed in the neighborhood of 300-350 pounds, maybe more. He was tiny compared with a large cave bear -- but it was a bear and it was at a cave.