duffy_on_scale.jpgTypical weights
Males of breeding age: 125-500 lbs or more

Females of breeding age: 90-300 lbs or more

Male: 880 lbs (399 kgs), Craven Co., NC, 1998 or or 902 lbs (410 kg) field-dressed, Quebec, 1976

Female: 520 lbs (236 kgs), St. Louis Co., MN, Aug 30, 1993

Captive bears may exceed these weights.

Weight depends upon age, sex, season, food, and genetics. Males reach full size by 12 years of age. Females approach their smaller full size at 6.


Skull of a Black Bear

bear_skull_d.jpgSaggital crest:  This protrusion is for attachment of chewing muscles.  Animals with a large saggital crest have a powerful bite.  The saggital crest is much bigger on male black bears than it is on females, giving males a more powerful bite when fighting over females.  Males and females have similar diets.

Teeth:  Black bears have 42 teeth adapted to an omnivorous diet of vegetation, nuts, berries, insects, and some meat. 


Size and Appearance

General: Black bears are 4 to 7 feet from nose to tail, 2 to 3 feet high at the shoulders, and have small eyes, rounded ears, a long snout, a short tail, and light gray skin.  Their fur is shaggy or sleek, depending upon season.

Compared to grizzly bears: Black bears average smaller than grizzly bears, have a smaller shoulder hump, and a less concave facial profile.  Their claws are smaller and more tightly curved for climbing trees.  Their fur is less shaggy.  Their ears are longer, smoother, and more tapered.  They have a furred rear instep, unlike the grizzly.


How to Age a Bear


The most accurate way to tell the age of a bear is to count the rings in a cross section of a tooth root using a microscope. 

This cross-section is from a 16-year-old mother black bear killed by wolves in February 1977.   

Here's how it works: