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The American Black Bear – ursus americanus

The American black bear is the most abundant bear species in Canada. Wouldn't it be great to spot one from a safe distance during your travel in Canada!

Although not all black bears are black furred, most are.
Colour variations are brown, cinnamon and blond / white. The latter is called a Kermode bear.

On this page:

Black Bear Range within Canada

Black Bear's Diet

Prime Black Bear Habitat

Opportunistic Feeders

On Vacation in Bear Country

When and Where to see Black Bears in Canada             

American black bearAn American black bear looking for Crustacean at low tide. A seafood specialized bear is also called a 'coastal bear'

Black Bear Range

Within Canada present distribution of the black bear is primarily restricted to less settled, forested regions.

The Canadian black bear inhabits 12 out of 13 provinces and territories.
They are absent from Prince Edward Island and from the southern farmlands of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

British Columbia has the highest density of Canadian black bears (approximately 120.000 individuals)

Black Bear Diet

The American black bear is omnivorous; less than 10 % of its diet is based on animal protein, ninety percent consist of vegetation. 

Black bears feed on

  • fresh shoots of sedge, grasses, and other plant species such as dandelions
  • young shoots from shrub and tree species
  • forest fruit like berries, rose hips, acorn, and beechnuts
  • insects, such as ants and their larvae
  • crustaceans that hide underneath boulders during low tide (coastal black bears)
  • wild salmon
  • calves of ungulates (deer, moose, elk, and caribou)

The black bear is an opportunistic feeder and their diet changes with the season and the individual habitat.

bear berriesBears love these soap berries!

Black Bear Habitat

In mountainous regions the black bear prefers the montane zone, the valley floors. 
Black bears favor relatively inaccessible terrain, thick understory vegetation, and abundant sources of food.

an American black bear in Canadablack bears prefer forested areas

Opportunistic Feeders

Black bears are very adaptable, and as opportunistic feeders, they maintain surprisingly well in the presence of humans.  The latter is their biggest threat, as a black bear that has lost its fear for people is potentially dangerous.

Habituated bears are more often involved in confrontations compared to their ‘wilder’ specie members.
As a result, habituated bears are often relocated (unfortunately, most of the time, with little success) or shot. 

On Vacation in Bear Country

First time I camped in bear country, I didn’t drink anything after 7 pm, afraid I had to go to the bathroom during the night. Naturally, behind every tree a bear was waiting for me. Any Canadian black bear would go wild for a tender piece of me!
Since I learned people are not on the bear’s menu, I enjoy the campfire even more.

Check the bear watching etiquette to prevent dangerous confrontations with bears.

bear etiquetteBear aware! See the nail imprint?

When and Where to see American Black Bears in Canada

During springtime

  • Shorelines at low tide; feeding on crustacean.
  • Wetlands or meadows covered with sedge and grasses; feeding on fresh shoots of sedge and grasses.
  • Roadsides and other open areas where the sun warms up the floor. Therefore, the first vegetation gets to grow. Here black bears are feeding on fresh shoots of grasses and other plant species, dandelions, and young shoots and buds from tree and shrub species. 

In the summer

  • In the forest; feeding  on berries and other forest fruit.  Insects, such as ants and their larvae, bees and wasps are also part of the black bear’s diet.
  • Shorelines at low tide; feeding on crustacean.
  • Creeks with spawning salmon

During fall black bears are almost non-stop foraging, as they need to fatten up for hibernation.  

  • Shorelines at low tide,
  • Creeks with spawning salmon,
  • Forest; searching for berries, nuts (hazelnuts, oak acorns, pine nuts) and old or sick individuals of ungulates as well as carrion.
  • Orchards; bears love for apples, plums, and other fruits.

In wintertime, black bears hibernate. They stay in the forest inside their den. Pregnant females give birth to 2-4 cubs inside the den.

cinnamon black bearnot all black bears are black

Sources and references
National Audubon Society:  Black Bear Diet
American Black Bear Conservation Action Plan, chapter 8 PDF-file

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