North American Black Bear

[Ursus americanus]

North American black bears resemble a huge teddy bear. Their color ranges are jet black, gray, brown, and blonde. There is even a blue phase. The Kermode bear or the "ghost bear" of the Pacific Northwest is one of a "blonde" (white) color phase sometimes found in litters of differing colors. The American black bear's length is about 4.5- 7.5 feet (1.3 to 2.33 meters), and height on all fours (at the withers) is 2-3.5 feet (0.667 to 1 meter). American black bears have small eyes, round ears, and short tails. They reach adult size at 4 years of age, at which time females range from 90-300 pounds and males range from 125-500 pounds. The bears have a brown muzzle and occasionally a white to cinnamon V-shaped blaze on their chest. They have color vision, movable lips, long prehensile tongues, and strong curved claws. They climb trees easily.

Black bears bite and claw trees. It is believed this habit is to mark trails and establish boundaries. Black bears are curious, but their encounters with humans and human garbage can be extremely dangerous.

The size of the bear cub at birth is the smallest of any placental mammal, relative to the weight of the mother. This ratio would be comparable to that of a human child weighing about 5 ounces at birth.

Location: Bear Exhibits



Black bears can be found across Alaska and Canada down to Mexico and Florida.


Black bears inhabit temperate hardwood and boreal coniferous forests.

Conservation Status
Least Concern
Primary Threats
Human Wildlife Coexistence; habitat decreasing due to housing, timber, ranching, hunting, and trapping.

Gestation in black bears is around 235 days (10 weeks).


The average black bear litter is 2 but can range from 1 to 5 cubs.


North American black bears are the world's most adaptable large carnivores. They are intelligent, strong, and agile, and eat almost anything, including human garbage. They tend to sleep during the day, and they feed in the early morning and late evening. Bears establish a home range covering 20 square miles for females and over 40 square miles for males. In northern climates, all female black bears and many male black bears hibernate. In warmer regions, depending on the availability of food, bears hibernate intermittently.


Females attain sexual maturity at 3 years of age, on the average. North American black bears mate June and July and the females den in the fall. If the female is in peak condition (with enough stored fat) when she goes into her winter den, the embryo will start to develop. If the female is not in peak condition, her body will reabsorb the embryo and not give birth that year. They usually have a litter of two cubs. At the end of a 2-month gestation period, the cubs are born in January or February. The cubs weigh 240 to 330 g (0.5 to .7 lb) at birth and develop to about 4 to 8 pounds after emerging from the den. The cubs stay with their mother for 16 -18 months and then start out on their own by the next winter.

Wild Diet

Omnivorous: high-energy food, including fish, amphibians, small mammals, insects, plants, fruits, etc.

Zoo Diet




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