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North American black bear

Our refuge's first black bear sighting!

The first North American black bear seen, photographed, and documented on San Andres National Wildlife Refuge had a blonde coat!  We were so excited!  A "black" bear with blonde fur though! 

Actually, you cannot take the name "black" bear too literally.  The North American black bear's coat can range from black in color, particularly in eastern North America; to lighter in color being more often brown, cinnamon, or blonde throughout the western areas of the continent.  Populations in Alaska are creamy white or bluish gray.  The size of the North American black bear is more of an identifier.  It is the smallest of the 3 bear species in North America and is found only in North America.  The polar bear being the largest and the grizzly (or also called brown bear) as the close second in size. 

Both the polar and grizzly bear are listed as Threatened under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Act.  Today, the grizzly bear is found in only about 2 percent of its original range in the lower 48 states.  For the polar bear, habitat loss is critical with the effects of global warming.  Since 1979 the extent of summer ice has declined by about 30 percent.  If the current climate change's global warming effects continue, scientists predict that melting of ice will occur so fast that by 2050 areas may be largely ice free in summer.

The North American black bear can be found in at least 40 states in the United States.  They occupy forested areas where there is little human activity.  The Louisiana black bear is listed as threatened under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Act and the black bear is listed as a State threatened species in Florida.

Facts About North American black bear

Smallest bear species in North America and only found in North America.

Height of: 2-3 feet at shoulders.

Length at: 4-7 feet from nose to tip of tail.

Weight of males: average of 150-300 lbs with females being smaller.  Exceptionally large males have been known to weigh 500-600 lbs.

Have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent tree-climbing ability.

Lifespan: around ten years, but can live upward of 30 years in the wild.

Are omnivorous: eating plants, fruits, nuts, insects, honey, salmon, small mammals and carrion.

Most hibernate.  May not hibernate, or do so briefly, if there is ample food and warmer weather throughout the winter.

Page Photo Credits — Refuge's first black bear sighting! With a blonde coat / M. Weisenberger, USFWS, Black bear with reddish-brown coat / Refuge remote camera, USFWS
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2014
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