Haida Gwaii bear (© Island Conservation-1, some rights reserved)

Accepted scientific name:  Ursus americanus carlottae (Osgood, 1901).

Description:  Larger than mainland black bears and regarded as the largest subspecies of the American black bear with a huge skull and molars, and found only as a black colour phase with a tan muzzle and often a white v-shaped chest blaze.

Range:  Haida Gwaii archipelago (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada.

Haida Gwaii archipelago (HaidaGwaiiOMC.png by TCY – GNU Free Documentation License)

Habitat:  Forests, meadows, streams, estuaries and shorelines of the archipelago.

Status:  It is not known how many bears there are on the Islands but since since 1977 over 975 bears have been killed by hunters.  In 1995 and 2004 the Council of the Haida Nation called for an end to recreational bear hunting on Haida Gwaii.

Life span:  Probably around 20 years in the wild.

Food:  Haida Gwaii black bears are omnivorous.  They forage in the intertidal zone for crabs, sea-urchins, beach hoppers, clams, mussels and barnacles.  From spring to early summer much of their diet consists of green vegetation including sedges, nettles, fireweed, horsetail, rushes, ferns, cow parsnip, Pacific hemlock, beach lovage and skunk cabbage.  From June onwards berries from an ever greater part of the bears’ diet until October when the bears move to the salmon spawning streams.  The spawning period lasts around 45 days during which time the bears will accumulate something in the region of 70 percent of their annual protein intake.

Behaviour:. The bears typically hibernate for between three and five months, most commonly emerging in April or May.  Dens are most commonly made in old-growth cedar forests in hollow trees or stumps.  Pregnant females give birth in the den to between one and five cubs with two or three the norm.  Cubs are usually born in January and will remain with their other for about one and a half years, during which time she will not become pregnant again.

Threats:  Hunting is the major cause of Haida Gwaii black bear mortality.


Haida Gwaii environmental conditions report (2005).  (Opens as pdf document from our own server.) This report provides an overview of the Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands environment – historically, currently, and into the future as defined by current management practices.  It includes the Haida Gwaii black bear as an indicator of environmental conditions.  The specific section on the bears begins on page 108.

Page updated 03 March 2018