West Mexico black bear, Chihuahua, Mexico (© Alejandro Gómez-Nísinovia iNaturalist – some rights reserved)

Accepted scientific name: Ursus americanus machetes (Elliot, 1903)

Description:  One of the three subspecies found in Mexico (see map).  A medium sized bear, typically around 90 cm at the shoulder.

Range:  Found in north central Mexico, mainly in the Sierra Nevada Occidental range.  This subspecies of black bear is thought to be geographically distinguished from the Olympic black bear (Ursus americanus altifrontalis) by the crest of the Klamath Mountains in the north of California.

Historical distribution of Ursus americanus subspecies in MexicoU. a. amblyceps 2. U. a. machetes 3. U. a. eremicus (Hall, 1981; IUCN, 1999)

Habitat:  The high plateau of the Sierra Nevada Occidental averages 2,250 metres in elevation.  The plateau is cut by deep valleys and canyons and consists of large areas of oak and pine forest.

Status: Mexican black bear subspecies are the only American black bears classified as endangered.  Information on black bears in Mexico in general is very sparse and there have been no recent population surveys.

Life span: Not known but 20 to 25 years in the wild is the norm for Ursus americanus.

Food:  Information on the subspecies is sketchy but it seems likely that acorns and pine nuts will form a significant part of the bears’ diet along with roots, bulbs, berries and grasses where found.  Fish may also be taken along with small mammals and reptiles.  There are anecdotal reports of predation on cattle.

Behaviour: There have been no recent studies of the bear and little information is available regarding behaviour.

Threats: Increasing human population and resultant loss of habitat.  There is little real protection for bears.  Whilst hunting ceased in 1985 poaching continues.


Bear and three cubs sighted in Chihuahua (14 August 2017)

Page created 26 August 2017