Visitor & Tickets
Animals & Exhibits
Learning Adventures
Capybaras are semiaquatic, they have webbing in between their toes and are excellent swimmers. read more >

North American black bear

Scientific name: Ursus americanus

ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Ursidae

STATISTICS: Weight: 200-600 lbs; Height: 5-6 ft long

The American black bear is a medium sized bear with a muscular neck. The fur can be black, brown, gray, or blue-black. It has a black nose with dark brown fur around the tip. The rest of the mouth is a tan. It has triangular ears, dark gray fur on the bottom of the feet, and five sharp claws per foot.

North America and north Central Mexico.

North America’s forests, swamps, and mountains.

American black bears are solitary animals with the exception of mother and cubs or when a group forms because a feeding site is discovered. Males mark their territory, making it large enough to find food and water, and also possibly overlapping a series of female territories. These territories are defined by scent marks because the American black bear has a very good sense of smell. It communicates by sound, facial reactions, and touching.

American black bears tend to be very timid and non-aggressive unless provoked. Even when a mother is with her cubs she will have them climb up a tree and then retreat or make a lot of commotion. They are well known for their climbing ability to escape from threats or to look for their young. They tend to live in caves or burrows for protection against the cold winter.

American black bears eat every chance they get, whether it is fish, berries, or scraps from campers. When they aren’t scouring for food, they take naps or explore to suit their great curiosity. They eat all through spring, summer, and fall so when hibernation comes their bodies can feed off all the fat they have collected. Even while hibernating, they are very light sleepers and will wake easily upon any intrusion.

The American black bear mating time is usually from June to mid-July. The couple stays together only for a short amount of time. The female usually gives birth once every other year, or she may wait a few years before beginning the process over. Pregnancy usually will last for about 220 days, and females will give birth to up to five cubs in January and February. The cubs are born naked and helpless, and will feed from their mother for the first six to eight months. The mother will teach the cubs how to survive and they will stay with her until they reach the age of 17 months, at which time the mother is ready to mate again and sends the cubs off to fend for themselves. Females reach maturity between two and nine years of age; males reach maturity at three or four years of age.

Prey to man. The cubs are vulnerable to wolves and cougars.
Predator to smaller mammals or fish.

Listed as CITES Appendix II due to habitat destruction, hunting, and poaching.


  • The American black bear is not a true hibernator. It is the most widespread and numerous bear in North America, with a total population of up to 500,000.


  1. Novak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Vol. II. Baltimore, Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
  2. Christiansen, Per. The Encyclopedia of Animals. London, United Kingdom. Amber Books Ltd. 2006.
  3. Black Bear. National Geographic. 2008.

Published: September 2009

Hours of Operation
Summer8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(March – October)
Winter10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(November – February)
*The Zoo will be closed one day only, September 8, 2018 to facilitate the preparation of the annual Zoo fundraiser, Zoobilee.