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Black Bear

Additional Info

  • Scientific Nomenclature: North American Black Bear
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Ursidae
  • Genus: Ursus
  • Species: americanus
  • Members of the Family: polar bears, brown bears, sloth bears, sun bears and spectacled bears
  • Conservation Status: They are a species of least concern; not federally listed as threatened or endangered. North American Black Bear numbers have returned to pre-settlement numbers –which is estimated at more than 500,000, though they reside on only 1/3 of the habitat. Individual states may have special conservation status for black bears.
  • Geographic Range and Habitat: Sustainable populations of black bear reside in 38 out of 49 states to which they are indigenous . They can be found from sea-level up to 7,000 feet in elevation. Black bears prefer to live in relatively inaccessible terrain with thick vegetation for cover. They reside in swamps and chaparral as well as deciduous and coniferous forests.
  • Physical Description: Black bears can range in many colors: white, blonde, cinnamon, chocolate, black and grey. They are almost always black in eastern populations but are brown, cinnamon, black, or occasionally blond in western populations. White and blue-grey bears are found in areas of British Columbia. Their thick fur may also change color seasonally. Some bears have white markings on their chest. Unlike a brown bear, they do not have a hump between their shoulders and have shorter curved claws that are used for digging and climbing trees. All bears have five toes and heeled hind feet that allow them to stand and walk short distances. Their dense fur covers extremely thick hide (1/4”-3/8” thick). Males are generally larger than females
  • Weight: 100 to 500lbs (45 to 222 kg) in the wild.
  • Length: 47.24 to 78.74 in (1200 to 2000 mm)
  • Reproduction: Black bears breed once each year, generally between May and August based on geographic location. Males are ready to mate during the entire season and may breed with more than one female. Females are ready for only a few days.
  • Gestation Period: 220 days
  • Number of Offspring: 1 to 5 cubs
  • Birth Weight: 10 ounces (the smallest birth weight relative to adult size of any other placental mammal)
  • Time to Weaning: 6 to 8 months
  • Age at Sexual or Reproductive Maturity: 2 to 5 years
  • Average Lifespan (Wild): 10 years
  • Average Lifespan (Captivity): 25 years
  • Social Habits: Young cubs are extremely curious and playful. They will wrestle, spar and chase one another before taking a long nap. Black bears communicate with one another using vocalizations, posturing and swiping at the ground. Females tend to have territories of 1 to 2 miles and males will have mating territories that over-lap several females.
  • Behavior: Female bears with cubs will signal their offspring to climb a tree in the face of danger and run away themselves. They are typically not aggressive like brown or polar bears in defense of their cubs. Black bears have survived and flourished as a result of their highly developed sense of smell, strength, resistance to pests and diseases, adaptability and their ability to learn and retain. Because they are generally timid in nature, their threat to humans is in their ability to do property damage while searching for food in late summer when they need to consume 20,000 calories daily. They have been known to destroy dumpsters, break into barns, porches and cabins in search of garbage, livestock and pet feed, and even refrigerated groceries. They will kill and consume livestock, but rarely pose a direct threat to human lives.
  • Food Habits: Black bears will eat grasses, roots, insects, carrion, fruit, nuts, seeds, small and large mammals. In areas where humans reside they will eat pet and livestock feed, bird seed, and garbage.
  • Known Predators: Brown bears, wolves in packs, and humans. Male bears will kill cubs that they encounter. Controversy: People may unintentionally cause problems for black bears by intentionally feeding them or being careless with their feed, food and trash. Bears can become accustomed to being close to humans, or even rely on people for their food. Black bears can become a nuisance and damage personal property when they lose their fear of people. The North American black bear is closely related to Asian black bears which are endangered and frequently poached.
  • To Cite This Page: Stoffel V. 2010. "Ursus americanus" (On-line), Bearizona. Accessed Month day, year at http://www.bearizona.com
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