American Black Bear

Scientific Name: Ursus americanus


Black bear, Alligator River NWR, Steve Hillebrand/ FWS
Black bear, Alligator River NWR | Steve Hillebrand/FWS

Black bears are widely distributed across North America. In the past, these bruins were found in most forested regions but today they are largely restricted to sparsely settled areas. Adaptable and resourceful creatures, black bears are also found in arid shrublands and southern swamps.

Refuges where the American black bear can be found:


Habitat fragmentation from urbanization and other forms of development have restricted the black bear’s range and numbers. Most populations of black bears are stable, but the Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi populations are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


Black bear, Camas NWR, Steve Ballmer
Black bear, Camas NWR, ID | Steve Ballmer

Black bears are the smallest species of bear in North America, with adults averaging from 47 to 69 inches in length. Males typically weigh 125 to 550 pounds, while females weigh 90 to 275 pounds. These bruins have soft, thick fur, unlike the shaggy fur of their cousins, the brown bears. They feed on a wide variety of items from vegetation, nuts, fruits and honey to insects and fish.

Black bears are mostly solitary, except for the special relationship between mothers and cubs. In the summer and fall, black bears travel widely in search of high-protein meals to prepare for hibernation. After they build sufficient fat layers, these bruins retreat to dens and sleep during the cold winter months. Females usually give birth to two cubs during the winter and care for their young for the next year.

What NWRA is doing:

Beyond the Boundaries: Lower Mississippi River Valley

Help us protect the Lower Mississippi River Valley where the American black bear and many other species live. The Lower Mississippi River Valley is one of our Beyond the Boundaries projects  This area is exceptionally rich and diverse, containing large blocks of bottomland hardwood forests that are important to a locally endangered population of bruins and other wildlife. Learn more.




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