Black bears inhabit forests, woodlands, mountains and swamps throughout North America. Their range extends from northern Alaska and Canada down to central Mexico. Black bears feed mainly on grasses, fruits, roots, nuts, seeds and grains, although they also eat fish, insects, carrion and garbage. Their average life span in their natural habitat is 20 years.
Standing Black Bear
Black Bear Cub
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Carnivora
Family - Ursidae
Genus - Ursus
Species - U. americanus
Common Names - Black Bear, American Black Bear. The Moon Bear (Ursus thibetanus) is sometimes referred to as the Asiatic Black Bear.
Black bears in the eastern regions of North America typically have black fur, while those in the western regions usually have brown, reddish-brown, blonde or even white fur. Some eastern black bears also have a white patch on their chest. Black bears have larger and less furry ears than other bear species, as well as a less pronounced shoulder hump. Adults weigh between 200 and 600 pounds and measure between 5 and 6 feet long.
Black bears typically breed from June through mid-July. Females gestate for an average of 220 days before giving birth of up to five cubs. The cubs remain in the den with their mother through winter. When spring arrives, the mother teaches them how to find food, while the father keeps other male black bears away from the area.
Black bears communicate with other members of their species with facial expressions, body postures, vocalizations and scent markings. While many black bears remain solitary, others gather in small groups near abundant food sources. They are known for being intelligent and curious about their surroundings, although they tend to be shy when humans are around. Black bears are mainly active at dawn and dusk, but some are more active at night near campgrounds or during the day near roadsides.
Black bears have been driven from parts of their historic range due to habitat loss, although they are still widespread in North America overall. The main areas that have experienced a population decline are Mexico and the Midwestern United States.
Black bears are listed as Least Concern due to their abundant numbers, although habitat loss and conflicts with humans are potential threats. Black bear hunting is allowed, but it is well-regulated. The Asiatic black bear is listed as Vulnerable due to poaching and habitat loss.