Black Bear

These particular bears favour thickly forested mountainous areas. They are highly territorial, with individual males occupying areas of up to 100 km2 (40 square miles). They live in the conifer forests of Canada and a few wilderness areas as far south as Mexico. They share these forests with grizzly bears and are sometimes eaten by them. Their main defence against this is to climb trees out of the reach of the less agile grizzly.

This is the smallest of the three species of North American bear. As in all cases, the cubs are tiny at birth. They can weigh as little as 220 g (8 oz), but grow rapidly on their mother’s rich milk in her den. By the time they emerge in the spring, they may have grown to 5 kg (11 lb). The family then have to be wary of encountering male bears, which will seek to kill the cubs before ultimately mating with the female.

Black bears are most active at night. Three-quarters of what they eat is plant matter, with small animals, such as fish and rodents, making up the rest. Like other bears, black bears semi-hibernate through the winter in dens under fallen trees or in burrows. Although they sleep heavily, they often wake through the winter, going on excursions during breaks in the severe winter weather.

Although black bears generally forage for food alone, they will congregate around a large source of food. In general they stay away from each other, especially unknown bears. In the middle of summer, males and females come together for short periods. The male leaves soon after mating and cubs are born, while the mother is still in her den. The young stay with mother until at least 2 years old, when they are usually driven away by the aggression of males courting their mother.

American black bears vary in coloration from black to dark or reddish-brown and pale tan. They differ from grizzlies in several respects, including their shorter fur and the lack of a shoulder hump. The size of American black bears depends to some extent on the quality of food available in their locality.

Distribution: North America, ranging from southern Alaska into southwestern Canada, extending through the western USA down to northern Mexico. Also in Florida and Georgia.

Habitat: Forests.

Weight: 61 - 141 kg (135 - 310 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 165 - 193cm (65 - 76 in); about 95 cm (37 in) tall.

Maturity: 3 - 4 years, but may not breed until 7.

Gestation Period: Around 220 days.

Breeding: 2-3; weaning takes place around 6-8 months.

Food: Omnivorous, feeding on fruit, berries, plants, nuts, seeds, carrion, fish and deer.

Lifespan: Up to 32 years.

Status: Lower risk.


This is broad, and covered in short, and quite pale hair.


The hindquarters are muscular, with an inconspicuous tail.


Colour varies from cinnamon via darker brown to black. Occasional white individuals have been recorded.


All bears are plantigrade, walking on the soles of their feet, with the heels touching the ground.

American black bears escape danger by climbing trees.


Plant matter accounts for over three-quarters of this bear’s diet.