The black bear is native to North America and is the most common and widely distributed bear species in the World. Found in at least 40 of our 50 states, Canada, and Mexico, they are able to adapt to their environment as well as any species on the planet. They are estimated to number over 600,000 in North America.
Notorious for loving berries, black bears feed primarily on vegetation but round out their diet with insects, fish, small mammals and carcasses of dead animals. They also prey on moose and elk calves. Black bears tend to be loners, and are timid and withdrawn, avoiding confrontations. Preferring a solitary lifestyle, black bears tend to mark trees with their teeth and claws in order to warn other bears not to enter their territory. In order to warn other predators and intruders that do enter their territory, they make curious snorting, jaw popping, and huffing sounds.
The smallest of North America’s three bear species, black bears are typically about 4-7 feet long and weigh anywhere from 150-600 pounds. The only predators that black bears have to worry about are humans, bears, and wolves, the latter two most likely to attack them while hibernating. Black bears aren’t always black but vary in color from black to chocolate, blonde and even cinnamon or grey. The defining identification is their flat shoulders and straight profiled face. Because they can climb better than almost any other bear species and can run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, uphill or downhill for short distances, these bears can still be dangerous and deserve our respect. Black bears are also excellent swimmers and enjoy a good swim. This is partially due to the fact that where there’s water there’s green grass to graze, and there’s usually fish in water, so black bears spend a decent amount of the time around rivers, lakes, and streams.
Black bears breed from late spring into July and cubs are usually born in January during hibernation. The cubs don’t hibernate and spend the last few months of winter receiving all of their nourishment from their mother. The cubs then spend until eighteen months of age following their mother around.
Black bear hunting is very popular. Many states have bear seasons making it easy and affordable to find a place to hunt them. Hunting season’s for black bears typically run in the spring and the fall. During the spring they are just emerging from dens and typically follow the snow lines foraging for the newest green-up. Black bear hunts can be done successfully by spot and stock, baiting, and using dogs. During the fall they are often associated with berry patches. The same hunting styles above can be successfully used. Boone and Crocket scoring bears have skull measurements of 20 for awards and 21 for all time. There have been several hundred all-time record book bears killed the past 10 years. The places have ranged anywhere from Arizona to Manitoba with both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania being by far and away responsible for the most book heads.