American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Ursidae
The American black bear is one of the most common bear species; it is also one of the world's largest terrestrial carnivores.
When standing upright, black bears measure approximately 5 to 6 feet tall, with a tail length of roughly 5 inches.
Depending on the food supply available in their range, female black bears weigh from 100 to 600 pounds, and males average between 250 and 700 pounds.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- The American black bear is one of the most common bear species; it is also one of the world's largest terrestrial carnivores.
- When standing upright, black bears measure approximately 5 to 6 feet tall, with a tail length of roughly 5 inches.
- Depending on the food supply available in their range, female black bears weigh from 100 to 600 pounds, and males average between 250 and 700 pounds.
- Black bears have adapted strong forelimbs to help them obtain food and move logs or stones. They have strong, curved claws, usually measuring no more than 1 1/2 inches, a long snout and rounded ears.
- In spite of its name, the black bear can range in color from jet black to cinnamon-brown to blonde, depending on its geographic location. Most black bears in the eastern United States are black or brownish-black with a lighter-colored muzzle; their counterparts in the West are black to cinnamon with a white blaze on their chest. The Kermode bear, a rare subspecies of black bear found on and near Kermode Island, in British Columbia, has a creamy-white coat.
- Unlike the true brown bear, with which brown-colored black bears are often confused, the black bear has no shoulder hump. Its face is also pointier than the brown bear's.
- In 1987, approximately 400,000 to 500,000 black bears were recorded in North America. However, today certain individual black bear populations are considered endangered.
- Black bears can be found in forests throughout Canada, much of the United States, including Alaska, and northern Mexico.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Black bears eat a wide variety of food, depending on their habitat.
- Although classified as a carnivore, the black bear primarily eats vegetable matter, such as grass, roots, fruit, berries, nuts and acorns. It also feeds on insects, and occasionally rodents, young hoofed animals and domestic stock. Much of the meat the black consumes is carrion. Opportunistic eaters, black bears are also known to eat garbage left by humans.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- Black bears are promiscuous and do not form pair bonds. They mate from May to mid-July.
- Females reach sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years of age, and males at about 5 to 6 years.
- After a gestation period of 210 to 215 days, females give birth to a litter of two to four cubs, weighing rougly 7 to 12 ounces each. Young stay with their mother for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years.
- Females usually give birth every two years, but sometimes wait three or four years.
- Adept climbers, black bears often climb trees to escape predators (mainly humans), or other bears. They also climb trees to forage for certain foods, such as acorns.
- Black bears do not truly hibernate, but rather enter winter dormancy, which lasts from October to mid-May. During this time, they sleep in burrows or fallen or hollow trees.
- Before becoming dormant, bears consume large amounts of fatty food and carbohydrates to prepare their bodies for the long season ahead. Their body temperatures drop a few degrees, and physiological necessities are produced internally.
- Females give birth during winter dormancy.
- Humans, the only true predators of the black bear, hunt black bears for their meat and fur.
- Black bears rarely attack humans, but will do so if they or their young feel threatened.