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 1.3 to 2.33 meters, and height on all fours (at the withers) is 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.