Black Bear

Black Bear  

Scientific Name: Ursus americanus
Classification: Large Mammal
Life Span: 30 years +



Males may get to four feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 450 pounds. Females may get to 3.5 feet at the shoulder and may weigh up to 350 pounds.



Black Bears are not always black. They also come in shades of cinnamon and brown. They have large ears a long snout and round head that distinguishes them from grizzly and brown bears.



Mountainous areas and scrub lands, river and lake areas that have fish and fat-rich insects.



The American Black Bear is the only bear species occurring naturally in Nevada. Range includes mountainous areas and foothills of Lake Tahoe, the sierra Nevada mountains and nearby mountain ranges in extreme western Nevada.


Natural History:

Black Bears are primarily nocturnal, with occasional daytime forays, usually solitary except females with cubs. Black bears may range 15 miles or more. They can achieve speeds of 30 miles an hour in a sprint and are excellent climbers. They semi-hibernate in winter, their eyesight is poor, hearing good, smell excellent. Their voice varies, from a deep growl when fighting or attacking, to a “woof” sound when warning, to snapping teeth loudly when angry, to whimpering when calling cubs, to bawling when hurt or afraid.

Mortality for young bears is extremely high (around 50%), partly due to their encounters with humans. Often they are hit by cars, and to a much lesser extent, bears habituated to humans may be euthanized due to public safety concerns. However, a young black bear’s main concern while in search of its own territory is staying out of another bear’s territory.


Food Habits:

Black Bears are omnivorous. They will graze on grass and browse on berries and blossoms, dig grubs, catch fish and small mammals and scavenge carrion. Prior to winter hibernation, black bears seek to consume more than 20,000 calories a day in attempt to add 20-40% of its body weight so it can sustain itself through the winter.

When bears become accustomed to people bolder behavior results. These bears are referred to as garbage-habituated or human-conditioned bears. At this stage, bears may rummage through campsites for food and attractive smelling items like soap or deodorant that were not properly secured by campers, rummage through non-bear-proofed trash bins, or even enter residences seeking human food.



Sows (female bears) become sexually mature at four to six years of age. An average of two cubs is produced at a time, born during hibernation in late January or February. Cubs will stay with the mother through hibernation of their second year. For this reason, adult female bears will normally breed only every other year.



Black Bears are considered common in their range. They are listed as a game species in Nevada as well as in California and have a population estimate of 300-400 in most mountain ranges in far western Nevada.


Reason for Status:

Nevada's population of Black Bears is large enough to sustain a hunt. Even with a limited hunt the black bear population is expected to continue growing.


Management & Conservation:

Black Bears are found along the northwestern boundary of Nevada and usually wander back and forth from California to Nevada. There are often bear-human conflicts because of unprotected trash and pet food. Bears are often moved and occasionally killed to prevent public safety problems.

Bear complaints have risen sharply in the last ten years, due in part to the increase in people living in bear habitat. The Tahoe basin has the second highest density of black bears in north America, with several bears per square mile at times.

When bears become habituated to obtaining food by raiding garbage cans, they are extremely difficult to deter. For these individual bears the Nevada Department of Wildlife attempts to educate the bear and re-instill their fear of humans. This is accomplished by first trapping the offending bear, and then, although released in the same area that they are captured, they are subjected to a number of "aversion training" techniques upon release, including pepper spray, rubber buckshot and rubber bullets.

Homeowners can help by removing all human sources of food.


Fun Facts:

Presently, the Black Bear is the only kind of bear in Nevada and California. Until the last century, there were also California grizzly bears. But, now the only California grizzlies found in California are on the state flag.