The American black bear is the smallest of the three bears species
found in North America, and are found only in North America. Black
bears have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent
Black bear fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown
muzzle and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests.
Eastern populations are usually black in color while western populations
often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to
black. Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier)
bears and these unique color phases are only found in coastal British
American black bears are omnivorous: plants, fruits, nuts, insects,
honey, salmon, small mammals and carrion. In northern regions, they
eat spawning salmon.
Black bears will also occasionally kill young deer or moose calves.
Height: 2-3 feet (.6-.9m) at shoulders
Length: 4-7 feet (1.2-2m) from nose to tip of tail
Weight: Males weigh an average of 150-300 lbs (68-158
kg), females are smaller. Exceptionally large males have been
known to weigh 500-600 lbs (227-272 kg).
Lifespan: Average lifespan is around ten years, though
black bears can live upward of 30 years in the wild.
It is estimated that there are at least 600,000 black bears in North
America. In the United States, there are estimated to be over 300,000
individuals. However, the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus
luteolu) and Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) are
unique subspecies with small populations. The Louisiana black bear
is federally listed as a threatened species and the Florida black
bear is estimated to number 3,000.
The American black bear is distributed throughout North America,
from Canada to Mexico and in at least 40 states in the U.S. They
historically occupied nearly all of the forested regions of North
America, but in the U.S. they are now restricted to the forested
areas less densely occupied by humans. In Canada, black bears still
inhabit most of their historic range except for the intensively
farmed areas of the central plains. In Mexico, black bears were
thought to have inhabited the mountainous regions of the northern
states but are now limited to a few remnant populations.
Black bears are extremely adaptable and show a great variation in
habitat types, though they are primarily found in forested areas
with thick ground vegetation and an abundance of fruits, nuts, and
vegetation. In the northern areas, they can be found in the tundra,
and they will sometimes forage in fields or meadows.
Black bears tend to be solitary animals, with the exception
of mothers and cubs. The bears usually forage alone, but will tolerate
each other and forage in groups if there is an abundance of food
in one area.
Most black bears hibernate depending on local weather conditions
and availability of food during the winter months. In regions where
there is a consistent food supply and warmer weather throughout
the winter, bears may not hibernate at all or do so for a very brief
time. Females give birth and usually remain denned throughout the
winter, but males and females without young may leave their dens
from time to time during winter months.
Black Bear with 5 cubs
Mating Season: Summer.
Gestation: 63-70 days.
Litter Size: 1-6 cubs; 2 cubs are most common.
Cubs remain with the mother for a year and a half or more, even
though they are weaned at 6-8 months of age. Females only reproduce
every second year (or more). Should the young die for some reason,
the female may reproduce again after only one year.