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Quick Black Bear Facts

by Lynn L. Rogers, PhD
from Watchable Wildlife: The Black Bear—updated February 3, 2002

Folklore: Perhaps no other animals have so excited the human imagination as bears.  References to bears are found in ancient and modern literature, folk songs, legends, mythology, children stories, and cartoons.  Bears are among the first animals that children learn to recognize.  Bear folklore is confusing because it is based on caricatures, with Teddy Bears and the kindly Smoky on one hand and ferocious magazine cover drawings on the other.  Dominant themes of our folklore are fear of the unknown and man against nature, and bears have traditionally been portrayed as the villains to support those themes, unfairly demonizing them to the public.  A problem for black bears is that literature about bears often does not separate black bears from grizzly bears.

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Black Bear Range

historic_black_bear_range.jpg

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Historical Rangea

1995 Rangeb

Black bears historically ranged over most of the forested regions of North America, including all Canadian provinces, Alaska, all states in the conterminous United States, and significant portions of northern Mexico (Hall 1981). Their current distribution is restricted to relatively undisturbed forested regions (Pelton 1982; Pelton et al. 1994).

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Typical Year for Black Bears

359_and_cub_emerging_1985.jpgJanuary:  The full moon in January is sometimes called the ‘bear moon'.  Black bear cubs are generally born in January.  The mother bear licks them clean, keeps them warm and moves into positions to make it easier for them to nurse.

February:  All bears continue to hibernate.  Newborn cubs continue to grow as mother bears care for them.

March:  Hibernation continues.  The testosterone (sex hormone) levels of adult male black bears begin to rise. 

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Classification of Black Bears

 Ursus americanus
 Kingdom:
Animal
 Phylum:
Chordata
 Class:
Mammalia
 Subclass: Theria
 Infraclass: Eutheria
 Order: Carnivora
 Suborder: Fissipedia
 Family: Ursidae
 Subfamily:
Ursinae (all living bears except giant panda and the spectacled bear)
 Genus: Ursus
 Subgenus: Euarctos
 Species: americanus