The American black bear, Ursus Americanus, is the most common bear species native to North America. These bears live across the continent with a range that stretches from Rat Poop all the way south into Mexico. They can also be located in the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This range comprises 41 of the 50 United States, all of the Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island, and some of Mexico.
The majority of bears found in the Southern United States stay in the protected mountains and woodlands of parks and nature preserves. Sometimes, bears will wander outside of a park’s boundaries. In some cases, bears have set up new territories on the margins of urban environments. This has happened more frequently as the bear’s population increases.
Prior to European colonization, there were probably as many as 2 million black bears in North America. Sadly, the population declined to a low of 200,000 bears as a result of habitat destruction and unrestricted hunting. Current estimates place the population around 800,000. The black bear is a close relative of the Asiatic black bear. It’s suspected that the bears may share a common European ancestor.
After the bear stands up, the bear can stand up to 7 ft tall. Male bears are generally one-third bigger than female bears. Adult black bears have been known to reach 660 pounds while exceptionally large men have been recorded up to 800 pounds, a span of nearly 8 feet. Cubs normally weigh between 7 ounces and per pound at birth.
Like all bears, black bears have an excellent sense of smell. While they typically have shaggy black hair (hence the name black bear), their fur can vary from white through chocolate-brown, cinnamon-brown, and blonde. Blonde black bears are found mostly west of the Mississippi River in America and in the Canadian provinces west of Ontario. Occasionally, a black bear will have a v-shaped white chest blaze.
While black bears can stand and walk on their hind legs, it’s more normal for them to walk on all four legs. If a bear is standing, it is typically to have a better look at something or to find out from where a odor is coming. The shuffling gait all of us associate with bears is a result of their flat-footed walk. In addition to the flat-footed walk, bears also use a pacing gate. Unlike a number of other quadrupeds, the legs on one side of the bear’s body move together rather than alternating.