American Black Bear

views updated May 14 2018

American Black Bear

Ursus americanus

StatusSimilarity of Appearance to a Threatened Taxon
ListedJanuary 7, 1992
FamilyUrsidae (Bear)
DescriptionHuge, bulky bear with long black hair, brownish or cinnamon color phases, and a short, bushy tail.
HabitatForests, swamps, and mountains.
FoodOmnivorous; plant shoots, grasses, berries, ground squirrels, and fish.
ReproductionSmall cubs are born in January weighing 0.5 lb (225 g).
ThreatsFragmentation of habitat, multilane highways.
RangeLouisiana, Mississippi, Texas


The American black bear is a huge, bulky mammal with long black hair, brownish or cinnamon color phases, and a short, bushy tail. The facial profile is blunt. Its eyes are small, nose pad broad, and nostrils large. The muzzle is yellowish-brown with a white patch present on the lower throat and chest of some individuals. There are five toes on the front and hind feet and short curved claws. Large males may weigh more than 600 lb (270 kg) although weight varies considerably throughout their range. The bear's head and body length extend 4.5-5 ft (1.4-1.5 m) with a shoulder height of 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m).


American black bears are omnivorous and will eat almost anything. They feed on plant shoots, grasses, berries, lily bulbs, grubs, ants, ground squirrels, and fish. They will even eat garbage and carrion. In the fall, the species gains weight in preparation for its annual sleep. The bears find a den that protects them from the outside world and hibernate while living off stored body fat. Although they sleep for several months, they are not true hibernators. Their body temperature does not drop significantly and often they will wake and walk off from their dens. At the end of January, females give birth to small cubs that weigh an average of only 0.5 lb (225 g). Births occur while the bears are still in their dens during the winter hibernation.


This species lives in the forests, swamps, and mountains of Louisiana. The bears require open clearings and areas in which they can hibernate in the winter. These areas include fallen trees, caves, or other such protected areas.


The subspecies once occurred throughout southern Mississippi, all of Louisiana, and eastern Texas. Presently, the subspecies occurs only in Louisiana within the Tensas and Atchafalaya River Basins. These lands are owned both privately and publicly. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has assigned the status Similarity of Appearance to a Threatened Taxon to the species in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.


The habitat of the American black bear has suffered extensive modification, with suitable habitat having been reduced by more than 80% as of 1980. The remaining habitat has been reduced in quality by fragmentation due to intrusion of humans and their structures (e.g., proximity to human-caused disturbing activities, multilane highways), thereby stressing the remaining populations. The original 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of bottomland forests of the lower Mississippi River Valley had been reduced to 5 million acres (2 million hectares); through the early 1980s another 165,000 acres (66,800 hectares) were being cleared annually. Some of the Mississippi River Delta counties in the lower Yazoo River Basin may have as little as 5% of their original bottomland hardwoods. Other habitat locations in the Tensas and Atchafalaya River Basins have been equally disrupted.

Conservation and Recovery

The subspecies, like other members of the species Ursus americanus, is not adapted to old-growth forestsnor can it survive in open cropland conditions. Following fairly severe timber harvests, an abundance of foods were produced and the sub-species used the resulting cleared areas for escape cover; in some cases, the bears actually used the treetops remaining from logging operations as winter denning sites for the birthing of cubs. This leads the FWS to believe that maintaining occupied habitat in some form of timberland condition may be the single most critical factor in conserving this species, and that the principal threat to the American black bear is not normal forest management but conversion of these timbered habitats to croplands and other agricultural uses. For this reason, the FWS believes that the exemption provided in the special rule will not contribute to loss of habitat, but will provide for habitat diversity for the subspecies through continued forest management.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
P. O. Box 1306
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103-1306
Telephone: (505) 248-6911
Fax: (505) 248-6915

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lafayette Ecological Services Field Office
Brandywine II
825 Kaliste Saloom Rd., Suite 102
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508-4231
Telephone: (337) 291-3100
Fax: (337) 291-3139


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 7 January 1992. "Threatened Status for the American Black Bear and Related Rules." Federal Register 57 (4): 588-594.

black bear

views updated Jun 08 2018

black bear Bear found in North America and Asia. The American black bear lives in forests from Canada to central Mexico. It eats a variety of plant and animal foods, including carrion. It is timid and avoids humans. Length: 1.5–1.8m (5–6ft); weight: 120–150kg (265–330lb). Species Euarctos americanus. The Asiatic black bear lives in bush or forest areas of e and s Asia. Smaller than the American black bear, it has a white crescent marking on its chest. It has been known to kill livestock and people. Species Selenarctos thibetanos.