American black bear (US Forest Service)

American black bear (Ursus americanus)


American black bears are widely distributed throughout the forested areas of North America.  They are the continent’s smallest and most common bear and are present in 32 states of the USA, in all provinces and territories of Canada except Prince Edward Island, and in northern Mexico.

Most commonly found in forested areas, American black bears avoid open areas as trees provide an excellent means of escape from the larger brown bear.  They have however become established on the tundra of northern Labrador in Canada, an area where there are no brown bears.

Of medium size, the bears show a great deal of colour variation ranging from white, blonde, cinnamon brown to dark chocolate brown or to jet black.  They are omnivorous and solitary, except for females with cubs.

Females reach sexual maturity at around three to four years and males a year or so later. Mating takes place during June to August.  After around 220 days the female gives birth during hibernation, in the den, usually to a pair of cubs although litters of up to five cubs have been reported.  Cubs will normally be weaned at six to eight months, but will remain with their mothers for around a year and a half during which time she will not become pregnant again.

Longevity in the wild is 20 to 25 years.

For an up to date and detailed map of the distribution of Ursus americanus click here to open the IUCN map viewer.


Status: The most numerous bear species and classified as of “least concern” the IUCN Red List.  It is listed in Appendix II of CITES, however the subspecies Ursus americanus emmonsii is listed in Appendix I.

Kingdom: Animalia  Phylum: Chordata  Class: Mammalia  Order: Carnivora  Family: Ursidae

Genus and species: Ursus americanus (Pallas, 1780)

General Description: Medium-sized bear, usually black with a brown muzzle and often has a white chest patch.  Chocolate and cinnamon brown colour phases are also common. Bears with a white (Kermode bears) and with a silver-blue (glacier bears) pelage also occur.  The claws are highly curved and strong.

Size:  At shoulder typically 70 to 100 cm.  For both sexes body length can range from around 130 to 190cm.

Weight: Males 60 to 225 kg, although can be up to 300 kg, females 40 to 150 kg.

Life Expectancy: 20 to 25 years in the wild.

Also known as: See various subspecies names below.

Click here to download our comprehensive pdf species factsheet on the American black bear


Click on the links below for more information on each subspecies.

California black bear (U a californiensis)

Cinnamon bear (U a cinnamomum)

Dall Island black bear (U a pugnax)

Eastern black bear (U a americanus)

Florida black bear (U a floridanus)

Glacier bear (U a emmonsii)

Haida Gwaii black bear (U a carlottae)

Kenai black bear (U a perniger)

Kermode bear or spirit bear (U a kermodei)

Louisiana black bear (U a luteolus)

Mexican black bear (U a eremicus)

Newfoundland black bear (U a hamiltoni)

New Mexico black bear (U a amblyceps)

Olympic black bear (U a altifrontalis)

Vancouver Island black bear (U a vancouveri)

West Mexico black bear (U a machetes)


Click here to download our comprehensive pdf species factsheet on the American black bear

 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ursus americanus

American Black Bear Hunt Statistics USA 2006 – 2017 (requires MS Excel)

Page updated 20 February 2021