American Black Bear
Genus: Ursus
Species: americanus

The American black bear has a powerful build and a thick fur. Its face is long and narrow, its external ears are round, and its tail is short. The snout of the black bear is usually a dark brown color. It can be black, chocolate, brown, or cinnamon. There is even a cream-colored Kermodes bear that lives on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. It does not have a shoulder hump like the grizzly bear. Its claws are long and curved. The canines and molars of the black bear are not very large. The molars are used for grinding up the plants it eats.

The average black bear is about 35 to 40 inches tall at the shoulders, and 4 1/2 to 6 feet long. Their weight varies between 125 to 600 pounds. Male bears are about one third larger than females. Black bears can run very fast for a short distance. They have been recorded running at 25 miles per hour.

The black bear lives in the deciduous forests of eastern North America, and the pine forests of Canada. They don't live in the central areas of North America. There are about 400,000 and 750,000 black bears in North America.

Females reach sexual maturity in four to five years, and the male reaches sexual maturity in five to six years. The Black Bear mates during the summer. This is the only time that the black bears come together.

The cubs are born in the winter during hibernation. They are born blind and helpless. They develop quickly and are ready to follow their mom within five weeks after her long hibernation. The cubs stay with their mom for one year, and after their second hibernation with her, they leave. The cubs sometimes stay with each other for a while after they are on their own.

To get ready for hibernation the black bear can eat as much as 30 pounds of food per week. Most black bears hibernate between four and seven months. This lets them save energy during the cold winter months. During hibernation the black bear loses a lot of weight. Males can lose 15% to 30% of their weight. Females can lose almost half their body weight. In the wild the black bear can survive up to twenty-five years, and sometimes longer.

The powerful build of the black bear allows them to go where they want to in the thick forest. Their fur is very thick. It keeps them warm during the long winter months. It also protects them from the undergrowth of the forest.

The claws of the black bear are very long, sharp and curved. The claws are sometimes used to climb trees in times of danger. The male bear can be dangerous because it can kill the cubs so it can breed with their mother. Other predators of the black bear cubs are mountain lions, wolves, bobcats, eagles, and packs of dogs who will kill the cubs if they become separated from their mother.

During hibernation the black bear will not urinate or defecate. It recycles its waste to use all the proteins.

The black bear is an omnivore. It eats both animals and plants. In the spring it eats grasses, flowers, sedges and herbs. In the summer it eats berries, tubers, roots, fruits. In the fall it eats nuts and acorns. They will also eat fish, ants, other insects, and honey. Sometimes they eat elk and moose calves. They will also eat ground squirrels and marmots. The black bear will also eat any dead animal it comes across.

Black bears prefer to eat in the cool of the evening or early morning. During the hot days. Bears will try to find shade to keep them cool. The black bear is a predator but the cubs are prey to some animals. The black bear is a scavenger, and helps the environment by eating dead animals.

The American Black bear is not yet an endangered species, but is listed as a threatened species with similarity of appearance to a threatened species. For example, the Asian black bear, which looks a lot like the American black bear, is hunted for its gallbladder. The American black bear is listed as a look alike species to protect it from extinction. It is still doing well in most of its ranges.

June V. 2001



"American Black Bears - "The American Black Bears - by "THE BEAR DEN"", Don Middleton,, (Nov. 2001)

"Black Bear...American Black Bear...Michigan Black Bear",, (Nov. 2001).

"The American Black Bear", Wildlife Explorer. USA: International Masters Publishers, 1989.


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