Species / International Ovis

Black Bear

Ursus americanus


The black bear is found in most of Alaska and Canada (except the high arctic), with population numbers extremely high in prime habitat areas. It is also found in much of the western United States. Finally, the black bear is found throughout the Great Lakes region, New England, Appalachia and the Ozarks, with good population numbers even though the habitat is diminished in these areas. It is also found in Florida and Gulf Coast areas.

The American black bear has the largest population of any bear in the world. An adult male usually weighs 200-300 pounds, but occasionally much more. Where food is abundant, individuals have weighed 500 or even 600 pounds. Females average about 20-30 percent smaller than males. It is the smallest North American bear, and its name refers to the most common color phase, which is a uniform black with brown muzzle and often a splash of white on the chest. Other color phases, which usually occur in western parts of North America, vary through several shades of brown to a pale cinnamon. Several color phases can occur in the same geographic area or even in the same litter. Compared to a brown or grizzly bear, a black bear's back is straight instead of humped, and its nose is pointed. Its ears are large and erect, its claws are much shorter and more curved, and the hairs of its coat are shorter.


Like other bear species, the black bear is solitary except when mating, or when a sow is with her cubs. It is territorial, tending to avoid others even where territories overlap. It will congregate at a common food source, such as a garbage dump or berry patch, but even so will stay out of each other's way. The female usually gives birth in alternate years. Cubs stay with the mother 11/2 years, sometimes 2 1/2 years. Life expectancy is 25-30 years. The black bear is omnivorous, although more a vegetarian than a meat-eater, favoring grasses, sedges, bark, roots, buds, nuts, berries, honey, insects and rodents. It eats carrion when available, kills small mammals occasionally and sometimes kills domestic livestock. It dens during the winter in colder regions, but may not do so in warmer southern areas. It is an excellent tree climber, the only North American bear that, as an adult, can still climb trees. It is also a powerful swimmer. Senses of smell and hearing are very good, eyesight is adequate. It is intelligent, shy, secretive, yet inquisitive. Black bears are generally harmless to man except when wounded or protecting their young; however, attacks on humans, with some fatalities, occur with some regularity. Unlike the grizzly, the black bear is able to coexist with humans and is commonly found near large metropolitan areas. As grizzly bear range shrinks from expanding civilization, that of the black bear expands to occupy the vacated areas.

Super Ten®/Super Slam®: For the Super Ten®/Super Slam®, only one black bear is recognized. The SCI Record Book and some of the other organizations recognize two or more of the black bear subspecies of North America. Information found here contains excerpts from the on-line and printed version of Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book of Trophy Animals and is used by permission. Visit www.scirecordbook.org.

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