Black Bears

A black bear with two cubs. In Yellowstone, about 50% of black bears are black in color, others are brown, blond, or cinnamon.
In Yellowstone, about 50% of black bears are black in color, others are brown, blond, or cinnamon. This black bear is with two cubs.

NPS / Neal Herbert


The black bear (Ursus americanus) is the most common and widely distributed bear species in North America. However, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few areas south of Canada where black bears coexist with the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos). From 1910 to the 1960s, park managers allowed visitors to feed black bears along park roads, although the National Park Service officially frowned on this activity. During this time, along with Old Faithful, black bears became the symbol of Yellowstone for many people, and are still what some people think of when Yellowstone bears are mentioned. Since 1960, park staff have sought to deter bears from becoming conditioned to human foods. Continue: Black Bear Ecology


Quick Facts

Number in Yellowstone


Where to See

Tower and Mammoth areas, most often.

Size and Behavior

  • Males weigh 210–315 pounds, females weigh 135–200 pounds; adults stand about 3 feet at the shoulder.
  • May live 15–30 years.
  • Home range: male, 6–124 square miles, female, 2–45 square miles.
  • Can climb trees; adapted to life in forest and along forest edges.
  • Food includes rodents, insects, elk calves, cutthroat trout, pine nuts, grasses and other vegetation.
  • Mates in spring; gives birth the following winter to 1–3 cubs.
  • Considered true hibernators.
  • Have fair eyesight and an exceptional sense of smell.


  • Like grizzlies, used to be fed at dumps within the park.
  • For years, black bears were fed by visitors from vehicles.
  • Both of these actions resulted in bears losing fear of humans and pursuing human food, which resulted in visitor injuries, property damage, and the need to destroy “problem bears.”

Last updated: October 10, 2016

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