American Black Bear

Adult American black bear in the park.

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a large omnivorous mammal that can be found across most of Canada, in mountainous areas of the United States such as the western Pacific or Appalachian Mountain range, and in the southwestern United States extending into Mexico. They typically prefer hard to reach terrain such as rugged mountain sides or areas that are over vegetated. Depending on the area, American black bears can be found in open valleys, coniferous forests, rigid mountain, deciduous forests, along river banks, and along coastlines.

This species of bear is typically black in color but their fur can range in color from a cinnamon brown to a light tan or even white. Most eastern populations will be black in color but amongst western populations, coat color will vary more dramatically. Black bears, sometimes misidentified as grizzlies, can be identified by their longer ears and convex shaped head. Grizzlies typically will have shorter ears with a more concave profiled face structure along with bigger bodies and broader shoulders.

The diet of American black bears is a variety of leaves, fruits, nuts, and meats dependent on habitat and time of the year. While diets are typically high in carbohydrates, bears prefer to eat foods with protein and fats making human food waste a valuable food resource for them. In the summer and fall, American black bears will consume as much food as they can to supplement their food stores, and then when winter comes they will find a den to hibernate in until winter is over.

While American black bears are usually shy and non-aggressive to humans, it is important to not engage in interactions with bears. If encountered in the wild, the best practice is to shout and appear as big as possible by standing stall and holding your ground. Never feed a bear food or get near one as this promotes unhealthy relationships between them and humans and can cause more aggressive bears to attack later on due to lack of fear from humans.

Last updated: July 30, 2018

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