Nevada Fish & Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region

American Black bear in Nevada

(Ursus americanus californiensis)

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
Species: americanus
Sub-species: californiensis
Size: Males may get to four feet tall at the shoulder and weigh between 300 to 350 pounds, but can weigh up to 600 pounds. Females may get to 3.5 feet at the shoulder and may weigh around 150 pounds, but can weigh up to 350pounds.
Feed: Black bears are omnivorous. They will graze on grass and browse on berries and blossoms, dig grubs, catch fish and small mammals and scavenge carrion.
Habitat: Mountainous areas and scrub lands, river and lake areas that have fish and fat-rich insects.

Life History:

Black bears are not always black. They also come in shades of cinnamon and brown. They have large ears a long snout and round head that distinguishes them from grizzly and brown bears.

Sows (female bears) become sexually mature at four to six years of age. An average of two cubs is produced at a time, born during hibernation in late January or February. Cubs will stay with the mother through hibernation of their second year. For this reason, adult female bears will normally breed only every other year.

Black bears are primarily nocturnal, with occasional daytime forays, and usually solitary except females with cubs. Black bears may range 15 miles or more. They can achieve speeds of 30 miles an hour in a sprint and are excellent climbers. They semi-hibernate in winter, their eyesight is poor, hearing good, smell excellent. Their voice varies, from a deep growl when fighting or attacking, to a “woof” sound when warning, to snapping teeth loudly when angry, to whimpering when calling cubs, to bawling when hurt or afraid.

Distribution and Habitat:

  There are 16 subspecies of black bear in North America. Black bears in western Nevada belong to the subspecies U. a. californiensis, which is found in the Sierra Nevada of California and Nevada and the Cascade Range of northern California and south central Oregon. Known as the Sierra Nevada population, it is estimated to consist of 10,000–15,000 individuals.


  Mortality for young bears is extremely high (around 50%), partly due to their encounters with humans. Often they are hit by cars, and to a much lesser extent, bears habituated to humans may be euthanized due to public safety concerns. There are often bear-human conflicts because of unprotected trash and pet food. Bears are often moved and occasionally killed to prevent public safety problems.

Actions / Current Information:


  • July 3, 2012 News Release: American Black Bear Does Not Warrant Protection Under The Endangered Species Act
        Federal Register: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List a Distinct Population Segment of the American Black Bear in Nevada as Endangered or Threatened
        Frequently Asked Questions: 90-Day Finding for American Black Bear in Nevada
    Last updated: April 16, 2014