Black Bear

black bear in a tree
Black bear in a tree

NPS photo

Black bears are sometimes seen in Prince William Forest Park. Black bears are found only in North America and are the smallest of the three bear species living on the continent. Black bears are less aggressive than their cousin, the Grizzly bear. They have been known to attack people, however, reported cases of black bears attacking humans are extremely rare.

They have non-retractable claws, making them expert tree climbers. Male black bears weigh between 125 and 500 pounds, depending on their health and the availability of food. Their front legs are shorter than their rear legs, giving them an awkward gait when walking. However, they have been known to run at speeds of 30 miles per hour.

Black bears are often nocturnal, however, they are occasionally spotted during the day. They are extremely shy animals and will usually avoid contact with humans. Their eyesight is poor, however, their sense of smell and hearing is quite good. They typically live 20 to 25 years in the wild.

Black bear laying on a grassy field
Black bear in the park

To maintain the natural integrity, distribution and behavior of the bear population, check out these tips:

  • Black bears by nature are wary of human contact and avoid human contact

  • If you encounter a bear while hiking or camping, keep in mind these safety tips

  • Never approach or feed a bear

If you do see a bear:

  • Remain calm

  • Do not run, slowly back away

  • Avoid direct eye contact

  • Make sure the bear has an escape route

  • Make the bear aware of your presence

Learn more about the bears that call national parks across the country home.

Last updated: December 31, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

18100 Park Headquarters Road
Triangle , VA 22172


703 221-7181

Contact Us

Stay Connected