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September 22, 2018

American Black Bear

American Black Bear

The most common bear species that lives within the Province of Alberta, Canada is the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus).

Known simply as the "black bear" or "cinnamon bear", it can be found throughout all the forested areas of the province except in the southern prairie grasslands that lie east from the mountain parks.

It is not safe at any time to approach a black bear in the wild.  Although they may seem somewhat passive and quite entertaining to watch, the black bear can be dangerous and has been known to attack and kill humans.

They explore and rummage all possible food sources so be extremely careful when camping.  Practice common sense in the woods, protect your food and do not leave any garbage lying about.  It is always wise to use caution when walking in a known bear area and carry bells or make loud noises that may warn an unsuspecting black bear that you are in the area so you do not startle him suddenly.

Black bears are hunted as a sport and for economic profit.  In Asia, black bear gallbladders are harvested for their bile which is used to make medicinal products.  In China, black bear paws are considered a gourmet delicacy and are often used to make soup.

Physical Description

The Black Bear is one of the largest of the North American carnivores.  Adult males can measure up to 2.25 meters (7 ft.) in length and weigh anywhere between 45 to 200 kg (100 to 440 lbs.) with the females being normally slightly smaller.

The adult has small eyes, rounded ears, a long snout, shaggy fur, and a short tail.  Their color can be either glossy black or sometimes lighter to a cinnamon color.  They have also been spotted having a color closer to white.

Habitat and Habits

The black bear is omnivorous and is known to eat insects, insect larvae, small rodents, carrion and often will raid bee nests for honey.  They also eat grasses, roots, berries, nuts and other vegetation.  Adult males have been known to kill animals as large as deer and elk.  They seldom attack humans unless they feel threatened, cornered or are suddenly startled.  Black bears have an extremely keen sense of smell but they are known to have poor eyesight.

During the summer, bears will roam about following their hunger and can easily cover several miles in a day.  They can hide in dense brush and also climb trees.

In the winter, black bears hibernate in dens that can be found under logs, rocks, caves, in banks of earth, tree cavities and even culverts that run under roads and highways.


Females usually reach breeding maturity by 3 years of age and have cubs every 2 years.  Mating begins around the latter part of June or early July each year and the cubs are born in a winter den about 7.5 months later.

The cubs are born blind and will grow from a few ounces to almost 5 lbs before they emerge from the den in March.  Litters consisting of 2 or 3 cubs are normal and the cubs will stay with their mother for about a year before they leave on their own.

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