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.
AMERICAN BLACK BEAR SUBSPECIES
Click on the links below for more information on each subspecies.
MORE INFORMATION ON THE AMERICAN BLACK BEAR
American Black Bear Hunt Statistics USA 2006 – 2017 (requires MS Excel)
Page updated 20 February 2021