Black Bear

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SPECIES OVERVIEW - Black Bear

Adult black bears stand about 29 inches at the shoulders and measure about 60 inches from nose to tail. Males are larger than females. An average adult male in spring weighs about 180 – 200 lbs . Bears weigh considerably less when they emerge from winter dormancy; they may weigh 20 percent more in the fall after putting on layers of fat prior to hibernation. A 350 lb black bear will dress out at about 210 lb , yielding about 120 lbs of meat.

Throughout their range, habitats preferred by American black bears have a few shared characteristics. They are often found in areas with relatively inaccessible terrain, thick under-story vegetation, and large quantities of edible material (especially masts). 

In most of the contiguous United States, American black bears today are usually found in heavily vegetated mountainous areas, from 1,300 to 9,800 ft in elevation. For American black bears living in the American Southwest and Mexico, habitat usually consists of stands of chaparral and pinyon juniper woods. In this region, bears occasionally move to more open areas to feed on prickly pear cactus. Black bears inhabit at least two distinct, prime habitat types in the Southeastern United States. American black bears in the southern Appalachian Mountains survive in predominantly oak-hickory and mixed mesophytic forests. In the coastal areas of the Southeast (such as Florida, the Carolinas, and Louisiana), bears inhabit a mixture of flatwoods, bays and swampy hardwood sites.


Black Bear Range


Black bears can vary in color from jet black to white. Black is the color encountered most frequently across the country, but brown or cinnamon-colored “color phase” black bears are seen on occasion. Black bears often have brown muzzles and some also have a patch of white hair on their chest.

Black bears are opportunistic when it comes to food. However, they do follow certain predictable patterns. In the spring, freshly sprouted vegetation, including grass, horsetails, and poplar buds are an important food source for bears. Bears readily scavenge winter killed animals, and in some areas black bears are effective predators on newborn moose calves. As summer progresses, feeding shifts to salmon if that resource is available. In areas without salmon, black bears feed primarily on vegetation throughout the year. Berries, especially blueberries, are an important late summer-fall food item. Ants, grubs, and other insects help to round out the black bear’s diet. Male bears may also prey on cubs

STATES AND SEASONS

Black bear species overview seasons chart table huntsplus 1