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 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?
The alligator juniper is one of three species of juniper trees found in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. Alligator juniper got its name from its bark which resembles the scaly plates, or chutes, on an alligator's back. More...