American black bears

American black BearAmerican Black Bear inhabits wooded and mountainous areas throughout most of North America, from Alaska to Florida, and Canada to Mexico.

The Black Bear is approximately 5 feet long and varies in weight from 125 to 400 pounds. It has small eyes, rounded ears, a long snout, a large body, and a short tail. The shaggy hair varies from white to black, but most bears are indeed black or a darker shade of brown. Different color phases may occur in the same litter.

Black Bears are usually solitary animals except for females with their young. A pair may come together for several days during mating season, and in time of abundant food, several bears may feed closely together with little interaction. Male bears keep large territories that overlap the smaller ranges of several females.

When fall approaches, black bears must eat large amounts of food in order to gain weight to sustain them. Through their winter hibernation, they will survive on their reserves of body fat. During periods of relatively warm weather, they may awaken for short excursions outside.

Black bears reach sexual maturity about 4 to 5 years of age and breed every 2 to 3 years. Mating usually takes place in May and June. The embryos do not begin to develop until the mother dens in the fall to hibernate through the winter months. However, if food was scarce and the mother has not gained enough fat to sustain herself during hibernation as well as produce cubs, the embryos do not develop. The cubs are born in their mother’s Winter den (generally in January or February). Gestation is 6 to 9 months with a litter ranging from 1 to 4, but twins are most common.

Cubs are 8 inches long, and weigh between 9 and 12 ounces. They are blind for the first few weeks, hairless, and can not stand until they are 6 weeks old. Cubs are weaned around 6 months but may remain with their mother for a year and a half. Cub survival is totally dependent upon the skill of the mother in teaching her cubs what to eat, where and how to forage (find food), where to den, and what to seek for shelter from heat or danger.

Bears have a life span of 25 years or more in the wild.