Black Bears

Black bear sow and cub walk through grassy area

For centuries black bears (Ursus americanus) have made Lassen Volcanic National Park their home. Their movements are dictated by ancient connections to the seasons, food sources, and their own inclinations. Bears are curious, intelligent, and potentially dangerous animals.

Lassen is home to an estimated 50 black bears. Despite what their name implies, black bear fur can vary from blonde to black in color. These adaptable animals live in the park year-round, however they enter torpora short-term form of hibernationin the snowy winter months. Grizzly/brown bears (Ursus arctos) are not found in the park.


Where and When to Look for Bears at Lassen

Black bears are part of what makes Lassen Volcanic wild and special. Seeing a bear is often a matter of luck, but you can increase your chances of safely viewing a bear by being Bear Aware and knowing where and when to look.

  • Spring: Look in meadows and grassy patches where snow is first melting, including Little Hot Springs Valley viewed from the park highway.
  • Summer: Look in meadows, near water sources, in forested areas with fallen logs, and areas with pinemat Manzanita (its berries are a favorite food). Bears are most commonly sighted in the Kings Creek, Warner Valley, and Snag Lake areas in the summer months.
  • Winter: Bears are in torpor, a shallower state of hibernation. Since bears do not enter full hibernation, they or their prints in the snow can be rarely sighted in the park in the winter months, approximately November through April.

How to View Bears Safely

Learn what you should and should not do if you encounter a bear close-up or it is reacting to you or what to do in the rare case a bear charges you.

Keep at least 300 feet (100 yards) from black bears

  • Respect a bear's space. Binoculars and spotting scopes allow you to view bears without getting too close.
  • Never intentionally get closer or attempt to feed any animals.
  • Never approach, crowd, pursue, or displace bears. If a bear changes its behavior because of your presence, you are too close.
  • Give bears room to pass. Do NOT run from a bear. Read more about what to do in case of a bear encounter.
  • Use pullouts to observe bears on the roadside. If a bear is a crossing the road in front of you, use your hazard lights to let other drivers know to stop until the bear has passed.

Be Bear Aware on the Trail

  • Keep pets in developed areas (parking lots, roadways, picnic, and camping areas).
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look for things like scavenger birds such as crows or vultures in an area. This may indicate an animal carcass that a bear may be feeding on.
  • Avoid potential bear encounters on the trail by making noise to make your presence known. Sing a song or talk loudly. Be particularly careful near streams and when vegetation or terrain limits visibility.
  • Hike in groups of three or more if possible. A bear is more likely to detect the scents and sounds of a larger group.
  • Watch for cubs, if you see cubs leave the area, momma bear is not far away.
  • Never leave food unattended. Learn more about how to Stay with or Store Your Food to protect bears.

What Should I Do if I See a Black Bear?

Seeing a black bear at Lassen Volcanic National Park is a rare treat (there are not brown or grizzly bears in the park). While it is an exciting moment, it is important to remember that bears in national parks are wild and can be dangerous. Their behavior is sometimes unpredictable.

Most bear encounters at Lassen Volcanic end without injury. Although rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Learn more about what you should do if you see a black bear that seems interested in you and/or is close to you and how you can protect bears by staying with or storing your scented stuff.

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Take a look at the difference between Bear Stuff and Not Bear Stuff and learn how you can help keep Lassen's bears wild.

Last updated: December 8, 2022

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