Black Bear Sow and Cub in Kenai Fjords National Park (NPS / Rachel Dunham)

Accepted scientific name:  Ursus americanus perniger (Joel Asaph Allen, 1910).

Description:  A medium sized black bear, said to be slightly smaller than those located on the mainland across Prince William Sound.

Range:  Kenai black bears are found only on the Kenai Peninsula, extending out from the south coast of Alaska USA for approximately 240 km.  Separated from the mainland by Cook Inlet on the west and Prince William Sound on the east.

Map & location of Kenai Peninsula (NPS)

Habitat:  The Peninsula contains large expanses of the northern boreal forest, composed predominately of white and black spruce, birch, aspen, and cottonwood trees.  Bears are found from sea-level up into the Kenai Mountains (2,139 metres) which are heavily glaciated.  The northwest coast along the Cook Inlet is flat, marshy and dotted with numerous small lakes.  Several larger lakes extend through the interior of the peninsula and rivers include the Kenai River, famous for its salmon population.

Status:  Apparently stable population, probably in the region of 3,000.

Life span:  Around 20 to 25 years in the wild.

Food:  Whilst black bears are omnivorous the larger part of their diet is made up of plants, nuts and berries together with ants and other insects.    In addition, Kenai black bears are adept at preying upon new-born moose calves, readily take carrion when available and feed upon salmon during the spawning period in late summer.  Until then the bears spend much of their time above the treeline.

Behaviour:. Females reach sexual maturity at around three to four years and males a year or so later. Mating takes place during June and July.  Females give birth in the winter den, usually to a pair of cubs although larger litters and litters of single cubs have been reported.  Cubs will normally be weaned at six to eight months, but will remain with their mother for around seventeen months during which time she will not become pregnant again.

Threats:  Numbers killed by hunting are increasing and there is no closed season.  Loss of habitat as a result of the destruction of old-growth forests and development.  Poaching and the illegal trafficking of bear-parts for use in medicine.


This page was compiled in part from information provided by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game

See also Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Page updated 17 February 2021