AMERICAN BLACK BEAR (Ursus americanus) 


Where can I find black bears in the wild?

American black bears have a wide range stretching from Northern Mexico and Northern California to Alaska and across to the Great Lakes. There are also isolated populations in Florida along the Northern Gulf Coast. They are typically found in forest and woodland areas.


How big is an adult black bear?

The American Black bear has an overall head and body length of 5-6 feet and an additional tail length of 4.6 inches, and stands almost 3 feet at the shoulder. Males can weigh 240-575 pounds, and females 200-275 pounds. The coat color varies throughout its range, and cubs from one litter can each be different colors. Compared to the Grizzly, the American Black has a shorter more uniform coat, as well as shorter claws and hind feet. It also has a less sloping backline than the Grizzly.


Do black bears live in groups?

Typically solitary, but they will frequently congregate at large food sources, such as garbage dumps, although they will still stay out of each other’s way. They have a variety of vocalizations, such as a "woof" when startled, and cubs who are lonely or frightened will utter shrill howls.

Females will give birth every other year, but they sometimes wait more like every 3-4 years. Mating season takes place from mid-June to July, and the actual pregnancy typically lasts 220 days, however, there is delayed implantation. Embryonic development only occurs in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy. Births are typically in January and February, while the female is hibernating. Litters can vary from 1-5, but 2 or 3 is most common. The cubs are born weighing around 7.8-10.4 ounces each, and are blind and naked. They will be weaned around 6-8 months old but will stay with their mothers for the next 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 years. Females reach sexual maturity around 4-5 years old, and males a year later.


What do black bears eat?

The majority of their diet, about 75% is comprised of vegetable matter - especially fruits, berries, nuts, acorns, grass and roots. In some areas, they will peel the bark from a tree to ingest sapwood. They also eat insects, fish, rodents, carrion, and occasionally large mammals. These bears are expert tree climbers and swimmers. They require 11-18 pounds of food per day.


How long do black bears live?

These bears have a long lifespan and can live into their late 30’s both in the wild and under human care. American black bears only predators are humans and other bears. The oldest recorded wild black bear lived to be 39 years old in Minnesota. Scientists are able to tell the age of black bears based on their teeth. Similar to growth rings on trees, scientists can tell how old a bear is based on the number of rings on one of their premolar teeth.


Do black bears hibernate for the entire winter?

Hibernation can begin as early as October and last until May. During this time, their body temperature drops from 100° to 86-92°, the respiration slows and the metabolic rate is depressed. In the southern regions, hibernation may be interrupted by excursions outside during periods of relatively warm weather.


What are the biggest threats facing black bears in the wild?

These bears have been hunted intensively because of fear, to prevent predation on domestic animals and crops, for sport and to obtain fur and meat. Typically, in North America, an estimated 30,000 bears are hunted for sport each year. They are also illegally hunted for their parts for use in the Asian medicine market.

As bears lose their habitats, they start coming into closer contact with humans. American black bears have an excellent sense of smell and can smell food from over a mile away. They are also intelligent and will remember where they have found food in the past and will keep returning to spots where they found food in the past. This can lead to issues with bears relying on campgrounds, garbage dumps, or even garbage cans left outside for food. Over time, they lose their fear of humans and will often be killed to protect residents in the area.