General facts about all bears

  • Bears are mammals.

  • Bears are found in many habitats in different countries.

  • Bears all have a large body with strong legs and a short tail. They have a snout rather like a dog’s snout. They have thick fur. Their paws have five claws that do not pull back like a cat’s claws do.

  • Bears generally live alone, except when a mother is raising cubs.

  • There are eight different kinds of bear.

What do American black bears look like?

American black bears are medium size bears. Even though they are called black bears,  some have fur that is brownish, honey-coloured or greyish. Some have a white patch of fur on the chest. They have long tongues to help them gather berries and honey. They have long, strong, curved claws that help them rip open rotting logs to find insects and grubs.

Fully grown adult males grow to about 2 metres long and weigh almost 300 kg. Females do not grow as long and weigh about 80 kg.

What is their habitat and distribution? (where they are found)

Catching a meal. © Getty Images

Catching a meal. © Getty Images

American black bears are endemic to the continent of North America.

'Endemic' means found nowhere else in the world.  They can be found from Alaska and most of Canada through some states of the United States and into Mexico. They live in many different habitats such as thick forests, swamp lands, and scrub.

What are their behaviours?

Most of the time, American black bears are alone, but they gather in groups where there is a lot of food for a short time in a small area.  All bears are very good at finding food. Their excellent sense of smell, strong front legs and long claws help them find and gather food. They dig, tear apart logs, climb trees and travel long distances. They are very patient as well as strong, and will persist if something is hard to get to. 

American black bears are crepuscular (say kre-pus-kew-luh), which means they are most active at dawn and dusk.  In late summer and autumn, the bears eat a lot in order to build up layers of fat to last them through the winter. They sleep through the winter inside dens or hollow trees. This is not a complete hibernation like some other animals because they do wake, but it is a way that animals preserve energy at a time when food is scarce.

What do American black bears eat?

Black bears will climb trees to get honey. © Getty images

Black bears will climb trees to get honey. © Getty images

American black bears are omnivorous, which means they eat both plants and meat.

Much of their food is small, so they need find a lot of food.  Almost all of their diet, however, is plants. They eat roots, berries, twigs, plants and buds, insects and grubs, fish and small animals.  They climb trees to get honey from beehives.

What is their life cycle?

Female American black bears have cubs every second year. Males and females mate during summer. A female makes a den for the winter, in which she gives birth to about two cubs.  In spring, she brings the cubs out of the den. They stay with their mother for two years.  In the wild, American black bears live for about 32 years.  

Conservation status and threats

The American black bear is the most common of all eight kinds of bear.

Their numbers are not considered to be a concern.

Read more about American Black Bears

Watch a video

Read kidcyber pages about other kinds of bear:

Read the kidcyber page about mammals.