Alaska Black Bear 2013

Yellowstone Park, Blacktail Deer Plateau, 2007
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Turn Again Arm, 2013

The black bear (Ursus americanus) is the most common and widely distributed bear species in North America. However, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few areas south of Canada where black bears coexist with the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos). From 1910 to the 1960s, park managers allowed visitors to feed black bears along park roads, although the National Park Service officially frowned on this activity. During this time, along with Old Faithful, black bears became the symbol of Yellowstone for many people, and are still what some people think of when Yellowstone bears are mentioned. Since 1960, park staff have sought to deter bears from becoming conditioned to human foods.

Quick Facts about Black Bears in Yellowstone

  • Common
  • Males weigh 210–315 pounds, females weigh 135–200 pounds
  • adults stand about 3 feet at the shoulder
  • May live 15–30 years
  • Can climb trees; adapted to life in forest and along forest edges
  • Food includes rodents, insects, elk calves, cutthroat trout, pine nuts, grasses and other vegetation
  • Mates in spring; gives birth the following winter to 1–3 cubs
  • Considered true hibernators
  • Have fair eyesight and an exceptional sense of smell

Black bears currently inhabit much of their original Canadian range, though they do not occur in the southern farmlands of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. They have been extinct in Prince Edward Island since 1937. The total Canadian black bear population is between 396,000 and 476,000,[31] based on surveys taken in the mid-1990s in seven Canadian provinces, though this estimate excludes black bear populations in New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan. All provinces indicated stable populations of black bears over the last decade.[30]

The current range of black bears in the United States is constant throughout most of the northeast (down in the Appalachian Mountains almost continuously to Virginia and West Virginia), the northern midwest, the Rocky mountain region, the west coast and Alaska. However it becomes increasingly fragmented or absent in other regions. Despite this, black bears in those areas seems to have expanded their range during the last decade, such as with recent sightings in Ohio, though these probably do not represent stable breeding populations yet. Surveys taken from 35 states in the early 1990s indicate that black bears are either stable or increasing, except in Idaho and New Mexico. The overall population of black bears in the United States has been estimated to range between 339,000 and 465,000,[32] though this excludes populations from Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, whose population sizes are unknown.[30]

Black Bear Range

Range Map

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