Vancouver Island black bear (Vijay Somalinga – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Accepted scientific name: Ursus americanus vancouveri (Hall, 1928)

Description:  Slightly larger than mainland black bears with a massive skull and only black colour phase.  Males weigh up to around 275 kg and females up to around 180 kg.

Range:  Distributed throughout Vancouver Island and some adjacent islands.  The highest concentrations are in the uninhabited low-lying forests of the island.  Bears do move to higher altitudes but usually only during the summer months.

Vancouver Island, Canada (Public Domain)

Habitat:  Forested areas of the island, shoreline when feeding.

Status:  The population is generally stable and is considered to be one of the densest in the world (but see “Threats” below). Estimates range from 7,000 to 12,000 individuals.

Life span:  Around 20 years in the wild.

Food:  Vancouver Island black bears are omnivorous.  Their diet includes plant roots and shoots, grasses, berries, nuts, insects, small mammals, crabs, shellfish, eels and, in the autumn (fall) salmon.

Behaviour:  Usually found in the lower elevations of the island although they will sometimes move to higher levels in the summer.  Active during daylight unlike some other black bear populations.  This is most likely due to the absence of brown bears on the island.  The bears enter dens in the winter and a number of these are located in stumps and root boles along western coastal areas close by the shoreline but are also found throughout the wooded areas of the island.  Mothers become fertile between three and five years of age and give birth in the winter den to litters of between one and four cubs with twins being most common.  They will remain with the mother into their second year during which time she will not become pregnant again.

Threats:  The greatest current threat is hunting. The annual take on the island is typically over 700 animals. It is thought that this number is too high to facilitate long term survival and thriving of the subspecies.  Conflict with humans can also be an issue at times.


Characteristics and Selection of Winter Dens by Black Bears in Coastal British Columbia.  (Davis, H. 1996. Simon Fraser University)

Page updated 13 February 2021