Black bears are the smallest North American bear species, however, they are also the most common and familiar bears. When planning a trip to see these majestic animals in the wild, you’ll want to go prepared with some interesting knowledge about them. Read on to learn 21 fun facts about black bears.
21 facts about black bears
1. Not all black bears are black
Despite their name, some are a rusty cinnamon, brown, or light blue-gray. There are even rare black bear species in southern British Columbia with white fur.
2. Black bears have a wide range
You can find black bears throughout most of North America, from Alaska and most of Canada, to throughout the U.S., and down to northern Mexico. They live in forests, alpine habitats, and along river courses.
3. Black bears are solitary animals
Except during a brief mating season during the summer, black bears are generally solitary animals. The only other time you will see multiple bears together is a mother and her cubs of less than 18 months.
4. Black bears aren’t territorial
While they roam large territories alone, they don’t typically protect their range from other bears. Males can have a 15 to 80 square-mile home range where they forage for food.
5. Black bears are excellent tree-climbers
Adults like to hang out in trees and cubs will hide up trees to safety. They use their relatively short, non-retractable claws to help give them grip when climbing tree trunks.
6. Black bears are great swimmers
Despite their size, they can paddle at least 1.5 miles in freshwater using their powerful legs. They’ll enter the water to search for fish, to cool down, or for sheer enjoyment.
7. Black bears are quick and agile
They may be big, but a black bear can be quick and agile when they want to, including chasing you down at 30mph and climbing 100 feet up a tree in seconds.
8. Black bears aren’t picky eaters
The black bear’s goal is to store up as much fat as possible before hibernating in the winter. They are omnivores that will eat grasses, roots, berries, salmon, deer, fish, insects, moose, and even carrion.
9. Black bears are attracted to human-associated foods
Bears living near human populations will also be attracted to garbage, pet food, livestock, and fruit trees in your yard. This can be dangerous for them because they can be killed as nuisances. That’s why it’s best not to feed them so they don’t become used to human foods.
10. Black bears have a great sense of smell
Their oversized nose gives them a sharp sense of smell that can detect food morsels over a mile away. Their smell also helps them find a mate and identify danger.
11. Black bears can’t see far very well
While they have great hearing and smell, black bears can’t see long distances very well. They do, however, have great close-range eyesight.
12. Black bears can become nocturnal
Usually, black bears are active during the day, especially in the early morning or evenings when it isn’t too hot. However, when living next to human activity, they can become nocturnal to avoid encountering humans.
13. Black bears aren’t true hibernators
Instead of true hibernation, they go into a long winter sleep called torpor in the den that they build in hollow trees, rock cavities, or nests on the ground. They will begin looking for a den in October or November and emerge in the spring or when the weather warms up.
14. Layers of fur keep black bears warm
During the winter months and in colder habitats, black bears rely on their layered shaggy fur and stored fat to keep them warm and give them energy.
15. Female black bears can delay giving birth
Females only give birth when there is a higher chance of success meaning they can delay implantation to give birth every other year. If food supplies are scarce, she can skip a year or two between litters even after mating with a male. Litters typically contain 2 cubs but can have up to 5 cubs.
16. Black bear cubs are born blind
Cubs are born in January inside the winter dens, where they nurse on their mother’s milk. Although born blind, they do have fine hair covering their bodies.
17. Black bear cubs gain up to 30 pounds in 3 months
Cubs are born weighing less than a pound, however, they will gain 20 to 30 pounds in the first three months. Adult males weigh up to 600 pounds and adult females up to 200 pounds.
18. Black bear cubs grow up independently
Yes, the cubs will stay in their mother’s winter den for the first two years of their life and stick by their protective mother’s side. However, after they are 1.5 years old, they will separate and the mother will breed again.
19. Black bears are classified as a game animal
Most Canadian provinces and U.S. states with black bears allow hunters to harvest them legally. It’s estimated around 50,000 North American bears are harvested annually.
20. Black bears can be tamed
If you’ve seen a black bear in a circus, it’s because they can be tamed and taught various tricks, including dancing and pushing wheelbarrows.
21. Black bears are different from grizzly bears
While they may look similar, black bears have longer and less rounded ears and are typically smaller and darker than grizzly bears.
Living in different habitats and sporting various skills, there are plenty of reasons why black bears are so popular for wildlife viewing. Among other things, they’re great climbers, swimmers, and food foragers. But be careful you don’t get too close, especially when a mother is there with her cubs.