black bearScientific Name– Ursus americanus

Conservation Status– Least Concern

Appearance

Contrary to their name the American black bear is not always black. They can have a coat which is black, brown, cinnamon or blond. Some albino bears have also been recorded. They are a mid-sized bear.

These bears experience large variations in weight throughout the year due to health, food availability and season. Adult males can have weights ranging between 57 and 250kg. The female is on average 33% smaller than the male. They regularly weigh between 41 and 170kg.

The body length of this species is generally 120 to 200cm (47-79in) in head and body length. From foot to shoulder they measure approximately 70 to 105cm (28 to 41in).

The American black bear has a short tail. Generally it will be 7.7-17.1cm (3.0-7.0in) long.

Lifespan                                                                                  

The average lifespan of a black bear is 20 years in the wild. The maximum age ever attained by a wild black bear was 31 years. In captivity one bear managed to reach 44 years of age.

Diet

The American black bear is an omnivore. This species will live on fish, roots, berries, carrion, insects, larvae, grass and nuts.

Their diet is dependent on their habitat. In some areas such as Labrador in Canada they are mostly carnivorous while in others black bearplant material forms the majority of their diet.

Habitat

The American black bear is found throughout much of the United States, Canada and Alaska. In the United States the black bear can be found in 42 of the 50 states.

They mostly inhabit heavily forested mountainous areas. They can also exist in dry shrubby forests, swamps, coniferous forests and the bare tundras of Canada. They mostly live in those bare areas when there are no other bears present who may fight them or challenge them for food.

Reproduction

Breeding for the American black bear takes place throughout June and July. The pair of bears will come together only to mate.  After the mating occurs the female will not appreciate the male near her and will begin to drive him away.

After mating the female does not instantly become pregnant. Instead she shall eat lots before going into hibernation. As she is about to enter her den and go to bed the body will assess its condition and decide if to implant the embryo. The gestation is 235 days though most of this is waiting to see if it will implant.

After the gestation period 2 to 3 cubs will be born in the mother’s winter den at the end of the hibernation. They are born with fine, grey, down like fur and their eyes are not open. The young will weigh approximately 280-450g (0.62-0.99lb).

The eyes will open after 28-40 days and they take their first steps at 5 weeks old. They will rely on their mother’s milk to sustain them for 30 weeks. They are weaned at 16-18 months. They are sexually mature at 3 years of age. They are not fully grown though till they are 5.

Behaviour

The black bears only predator as an adult is the grizzly bear and humans. Cubs can be preyed upon by foxes, birds of prey and adult black bears. They are sometimes shot by farmers who fear for their live stocks safety as well as being threatened by logging.

The black bear lives a solitary lifestyle. Most of the time search for their food at night. The majority of the bears waking hours are spent patrolling for food as they have a large body to maintain.

Fall is spent building up a large fat reserve. This used when in winter they begin their hibernation. This will normally take place in their den, a burrow or even up a tree in a natural hollow at times. During this time they live solely off their fat reserves. The length of this is determined by the local weather conditions.

Bears are capable of swimming. They mainly use this to swim out into a lake to catch fish.

black bearQuick facts

The largest black bear ever recorded was measured to be 409kg (902lb).

Some black bears have been taught to distinguish between shapes such as triangles circles and squares. They can also learn colours faster than dogs and cats.

Winnie the Pooh takes his name from Winnipeg a black bear cub who lived at London Zoo from 1915 until 1934.

American black bears are the mascot for Baylor University. Here 2 black bears known as Joy and Lady live on campus.

Photo Credits

Top        – By Maslowski, Steve – U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceMattisse at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Map       – By Black_bear_map.png: *Map_Black_Bear.svg: Kmusser derivative work: Bobisbob (talk) derivative work: Bobisbob (Black_bear_map.png) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Michelle Buntin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons