American Black Bear

Ursus americanus

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. mammal mammal

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

American Black Bear
Image: Steve Maslowski
Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Type: mammal

American Black Bear American Black Bear
Image: Steve Maslowski
Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

The American Black Bear is legally hunted across its range, with controls in place to prevent over-hunting. Because they live in forested areas, these bears are at risk from deforestation through logging and expansion of human settlements. American Black Bear populations are currently increasing.



American Black Bears are omnivores.

They eat vegetation, roots, fruits, nuts, insects, fish , mammals, carrion and honey.


American Black Bear relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a woman and an African Elephant.

40–300 kg
1.2–1.9 m
0.7–1.0 m at shoulder

Amazing American Black Bear

The American Black Bear’s ability to eat almost anything and live in a variety of environments has allowed it to thrive despite a long history of human hunting and habitat fragmentation.

Black Bears are much smaller than Brown Bears and are usually black with a paler muzzle and sometimes a splash of white across the chest. Their strong, curved claws are used to climb trees in their forest habitat. In North America they live in deciduous or evergreen forests and eat a variety of foods, mostly plant material. They also hunt small animals such as fish, baby moose and deer, and feed on carrion. Black Bears living in Mexico even eat cactus at certain times of the year.

During summer and autumn, American Black Bears gorge on food and can put on up to 18 kg each week. Their fat stores sustain them through long periods of hibernation, which can be up to seven months long in cold areas. During hibernation their metabolism changes dramatically: their body temperature and heart rate drop, and they convert waste products to usable proteins. In temperate areas they do not hibernate at all.

Adults are solitary, making contact with others only where food is concentrated or when mating. Males can weigh as much as 300 kg, but females are generally less than 150 kg. Females give birth to one or two cubs and rear them for 18 months.

Did You Know?

American Black Bears

  • hibernate for more than half the year in colder areas
  • are amazing scavengers that eat almost anything
  • avoid open habitats where they might be hunted by Brown Bears


American Black Bear distribution map


Other animals from the Nearctic

Wood DuckGreat Horned OwlAmerican BeaverWolverine