American Topics

American Black Bear

Although far from the most intimidating member of the bear family, the North American black bear (Ursus americanus) is, nonetheless, a significant animal that should not be taken lightly.

Found in Mexico, most of the United States and nearly all of Canada, the American black bear prefers to stay in forested areas, but is sometimes forced into more exposed areas. Contact with humans is rare, and attacks on humans and domestic animals are even less common. Even so, it is wise to be aware if living in an area known to be inhabited by bears. American black bears can live about a quarter century in the wild, so the chances are good that if a bear has been spotted in an area, it could still be there years later.

Considered a medium-size bear at an average size of between 135 to 350 pounds, the American black bear is mostly black, with a brown muzzle and white chest patch. Patches of brown may also be evident, which can make it difficult to identify an American black bear from a brown bear. A key difference between the two is the facial profile: a black bear has a convex profile, while a brown bear has a more concave profile. There are 16 recognized subspecies of the American black bear, but most have only minor variations in appearance and genetic make up.

American black bears are omnivorous. They are willing to consume a variety of insects, nuts, berries, acorns and wild vegetation to survive, and are adaptable to the conditions and food choices found in the different geographic regions they inhabit. American black bears gather their food from large feeding areas; their keen sense of smell leads them to food, which is why it is so important for campers to store food away from their main resting site.

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