American Black Bear Facts

Ursus Americanus
American Black Bear, Ursus- Latin word meaning "bear"

The American Black Bear is found over most of North America. Similar to the European Cave Bear and evolving from the same line, it probably descended from Ursus abstrusus, as did the Asiatic Black Bear, which is the closest genetic relative to the American Black Bear.
American (native only) Black Bears can be found in 42 states. They are mostly forest dwellers in temperate climates ranging from Alaska to Florida.
750,000 total (US-286,600 to 328,000 Canada-342,500 to 395,500) Texas has a population of 50 American Black Bears, and is an endangered species within the state of Texas. Nationally, bears are not endangered and have a strong, viable population. The American Black Bear is the most numerous and widespread species of bear in North America, due to its intelligence and adaptability.
Black, Cinnamon, Red, Chocolate, Brown, Blond, Yellow, Grey, Tan, Bluish-Grey (Glacier Bear of Alaska and the Yukon), White (Kermode Bear of British Columbia). All Black Bears, regardless the color, have a brown snout. 70% of American Black Bears are black in color, and most bears that are black in coloration are found in the Eastern United States.
Soft, dense underfur (insulation); long, coarse, thick diameter guard hair. Black bears molt once a year, depending on the photoperiod (hours of light in a day, usually in July).
4-6 feet tall when standing
Males weigh 250 on average, 125-600 (range) 880 (heaviest). Male bears are 33% larger than female bears.
Growth & Development
Six weeks - 2 lbs.
Eight weeks - 5 lbs.
Six months - 40-60 lbs.
Three years - Sexually mature
Five years - Full grown
Cub: young bear (born weighing 13 oz. average, 8 inches long, blind, naked and unable to hear, smell, really only able to find sow's nipple, born during hibernation in January or early February weaned from mother after 16-18 months)
Boar, He-Bear: adult male bear
Sow, She-Bear: adult female bear (reach sexual maturity between 3-5 years, gestation period being 235 days, averaging 2 cubs per litter, with most cubs being born in January or February)
Eating Habits
Although bears are classified in the carnivore family, they exhibit characteristics that are predominately ominivoristic.
Black bears are omnivorous - they eat both plants and animals. They rely heavily on their sense of smell for finding food; it is thought that they can smell a food source from over two miles away. Most of their diet consists of berries, fruit, grass-like plants, and insects.
Bears can develop cavities and are one of the few wild animals that are susceptible to tooth decay, due to their sugary diet. A bear's age can be determined by the study of one of its teeth (similar to counting the rings on a tree). Bears have 42 teeth.
Body Temperature
98-99 Fahrenheit, during hibernation it can drop to 89.
Heart Rate
98 beats per minute while awake and walking; 45 at night while asleep
Black Bears can run to 25-30 m.p.h.
Non-retractable claws are mainly used to climb and rip apart objects in the search of food. Black Bears are the only species of bears in North America that climb trees at all ages (this is primarily a defense mechanism).
All bears are nearsighted, but do exhibit color vision and can see moving objects at long distances. Their vision is comparable to human vision. Bears stand up on their hind legs and approach things to see them better.
Bears' primary sense is their sense of smell (similar to vision in humans). Their sense of hearing is their second most prominent sense, with vision being their third.
Black Bears are excellent swimmers and swim for pleasure and as a means of thermoregulation. Bears do not sweat, and they therefore must release heat by panting or swimming.
Black Bears are outstanding climbers. They climb regularly and easily to feed, escape enemies, or to hibernate in some areas. Climbing ability declines with age. Climbing is also the principal means of defense.
While we commonly refer to a bear's winter repose as hibernation, it is actually a process called torpor. Hibernation is a response to a shortage of food, decreasing temperatures and snow on the ground. The bears enter their dens in October and November, although in the southernmost areas of their range (i.e. Texas, Florida, Mexico, the Southeastern United States), only pregnant females and mothers with yearling cubs will enter hibernation. Hibernating bears enter a shallow torpor with a decrease in body temperature of only 10 degrees. Their metabolism and hear rate slows down. But they don't need to eat, drink or pass waste. In order to survive, fat in the bear’s body breaks down into water and calories for the body to use. Muscle and organ tissues break down to supply the body with protein. This is actually quite unusual. Muscle and organ tissue is rebuilt by using the nitrogen in urea (the basis of urine). In contrast true hibernators, such as squirrels, reduce their body temperature to near freezing and greatly reduce their metabolism, to conserve energy when food is low. But they need to wake up once a week or so to eat some food and pass waste.

Brown, Gary. The Bear Almanac: a Comprehensive Guide to the Bears of the World. Lyons Press, 2013. U.S. National Park Service, Fricke, Cassandra, NPS Klamath Inventory & Monitoring Network, 2021.