• Sierra del Carmen

    Big Bend

    National Park Texas

Black Bear Habitat

Black bears are sighted in many areas of Big Bend National Park, but most live in the Chisos Mountains. The Chisos offer essential components of bear habitat: food, shelter, and water. Black bears thrive in the juniper, piñon pine, madrone, oak, and persimmon trees of the Chisos Mountains and foothills where they find shade and shelter. They eat pine nuts, madrone berries, and acorns, as well as prickly pear fruit, sotol, and yucca. Mountain pools and springs in the foothills provide drinking water much of the year.

Recent studies in the nearby Black Gap Wildlife Management Area has demonstrated that some black bears have also taken up permanent residence in the low elevation desert. Although these are mainly non-breeding bears, at least one female with cubs has used the desert as their normal range.

Through the Seasons

Black bears do not enter a true hibernation in Big Bend. Due to a mild climate and good food availability in Big Bend National Park, black bears are dormant for just three to four months (January-March) each year. Their metabolism slows down during the winter months, and they spend time resting in dens or surface beds. However, they are awake much of the time, and may periodically emerge to find food.

Black bears mate during the summer, so some female bears are pregnant throughout the fall and early winter. The cubs are born in February and stay in the den with their mother until April. The cubs weigh less than one pound at birth, and gain approximately 30 pounds during the first summer. A healthy adult bear in Big Bend can weigh 200-400 pounds and stand five to six feet tall.

There are approximately 8-12 adult bears living in Big Bend, and biologists believe the environment has supported 25 to 30 bears. Though, as with most creatures in a desert environment, there are fluctuations that are bound to occur from time to time.

In order for the bear population to thrive, and to keep humans safe, it is vital that visitors do their part to prevent negative encounters between bears and humans. More...

Did You Know?


Big Bend has more tropical species (20+) of butterflies than any other national park. More...