Black Bear Facts and Information

black bear facts

Black Bear Description

The North American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continents smallest and most common bear species.

Black bears are omnivores with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes they become attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food.

American black bears often mark trees using their teeth and claws as a form of communication with other bears, a behavior common to many species of bears.

Black Bear Build

Some specimens may develop a white “crescent moon” mark on the chest. This white mark, which is constant in Asiatic black bears, occurs in only 25% of American black bears.

The skulls of American black bears are broad, with narrow muzzles and large jaw hinges. Females tend to have more slender and pointed faces than males. Their claws are typically black or grayish brown. The claws are short and rounded, being thick at the base and tapering to a point. Claws from both hind and front legs are almost identical in length, though the foreclaws tend to be more sharply curved. The hind legs are longer than those of Asiatic black bears. The tail is usually 4.8 inches (12 cm) long. The ears are small and rounded, and are set well back on the head. The soles of the feet are black or brownish, and are naked, leathery and deeply wrinkled.

Black bears are highly dexterous, being capable of opening screw-top jars and manipulating door latches. They also have great physical strength. Even bear cubs have been known to turn over flat-shaped rocks weighing 310 to 325 pounds (140 to 147 kg) by flipping them over with a single foreleg. They move in a rhythmic, surefooted way and can run at speeds of 25–30 mph (40–50 km/h).

Black bears have good eyesight, and have been proven experimentally to be able to learn visual discrimination tasks based on color faster than chimpanzees and as fast as dogs. They are also capable of rapidly learning to distinguish different shapes, such as small triangles, circles and squares.

Black Bear Size

Black bear weight tends to vary according to age, sex, health, and season. Seasonal variation in weight is very pronounced: in autumn, their pre-den weight tends to be 30% higher than in spring, when black bears emerge from their dens.

Black bears on the East Coast tend to be heavier on average than those on the West Coast. Adult males typically weigh between 130–550 lbs., while females weigh 33% less at 90–370 lb.  Adults have a typical size range of 47–79 inches in length, and 28–41 inches in shoulder height. The tail is 3.0–7.0 inches long.  Although they are the smallest species in North America, large males exceed the size of other bear species except the Brown(Grizzly)  and Polar Bears.

The biggest wild American black bear ever recorded was a male from New Brunswick, shot in November 1972, that weighed 900 lbs. after it had been dressed, meaning it weighed an estimated 1,100 lbs. in life, and measured 7.9 ft. long.

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