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Coastal (Pacific) Black Bear - Species Detail

AKA: American Black Bear Along Pacific Coast Gold: 20 2/16" Gold (Bow): 17 10/16"
Endangered: Silver: 19 9/16" Silver (Bow): 16 3/16"
Bronze: 19" Bronze (Bow): 16"

Ursus americanus coastalis

Oso negro (Sp), Schwarzbär (G), Ours noir, Baribal (F). The Amerian black bear has been divided into two subspecies; Continental (Inland) Black Bear and the Coastal (Pacific) Black Bear.  The division was made because the Coastal Black Bear is, on average, bigger than the Continental (Inland) Black Bear.  This is due to the rich and ubiquitous food source of fish, mostly salmon, that the Coastal Black Bear has available. 

The American black bear is the only bear endemic to North America and has the largest population of any bear in the world.

DESCRIPTION (adult male) Head and body length 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 m). Tail length 4-5 inches (10.2 to 12.7 cm). Shoulder height 30-39 inches (75-97 cm). Weight 250-350 pounds (113-160 kg), occasionally much more depending totally on the amount of food available.  Black bears have been weighed up too 700 pounds (318 kg).  Females average about 20% smaller than the males.  Chromosome count is 74.

The black bear is the smallest of North America's bears.  Its name refers to the most common color phase, which is a uniform black with a brown muzzle and often a splash of white on the chest. Other color phases, which usually occur in western parts of North America, vary through several shades of brown to a pale cinnamon. Several color phases can occur in the same geographic area or even in the same litter. The so-called glacier bear (given the subspecific name emmonsii by Dall in 1895) is a rare bluish-gray color phase that occurs only near Yakutat, Alaska, where it provides limited hunting opportunities. Rarest color phase is the all-white (but not albino) Kermode bear (named kermodei by Hornaday in 1905) found only on islands off the northwest coast of British Columbia and protected by law. These are now regarded as color phases only; neither emmonsii nor kermodei is considered a valid subspecies today.

Compared to a brown or grizzly bear, a black bear's back is straight instead of humped, its nose is pointed, its profile is straight, its ears are large and erect, its claws are much shorter and more curved, and the hairs of its coat are shorter.

BEHAVIOR Like other bear species, the black bear is solitary except when mating, or when a sow is with her cubs. It is territorial, tending to avoid others even where territories overlap. Black bears will congregate at a common food source, such as a garbage dump or berry patch, but even so will stay out of each other's way. Mating season is June and July. The female usually gives birth in alternate years, mainly in January and February, with 2-3 cubs being born in the den, however up to 5 have been documented. Cubs stay with the mother 1-1/2 years, sometimes 2-1/2 years. Life expectancy is 25-30 years.

Black bears are omnivorous, although more a vegetarian than a meat-eater, favoring grasses, sedges, bark, roots, buds, nuts, berries, fruit, honey, insects and rodents. Eats carrion when available, kills small mammals occasionally and sometimes kills domestic stock. Recent predator and prey studies have shown the black bear a major predator of deer in some states. Black bears learn the time of the year and the area where deer drop their young in fawning season and will frequent these areas.  Black bars den during the winter in colder regions, but may not do so in warmer southern areas. A fast runner, able to maintain 25 mph (40 km/h) for a long distance. An excellent tree climber, black bears are the only North American bear that, as an adult, can still climb trees (usually in the presence of danger). A powerful swimmer. Senses of smell and hearing are excellent, eyesight is adequate. Intelligent, shy, secretive and yet inquisitive. Generally harmless to humans except when wounded or protecting young; however, attacks on humans-with some fatalities-occur with some regularity, especially in closed hunting areas.

HABITAT Mainly forest and woodland at all elevations, but found often on the coast searching for food. Can coexist in close proximity with humans and commonly found near metropolitan areas if food sources (garbage) are available.

DISTRIBUTION The west coast (Pacific) of British Columbia, Alaska and all the islands west of the mainland.  More specifically from the top of the Coastal mountain range in British Columbia west to the Pacific Ocean and all the islands west of the mainland. In Alaska, it would include all of Southeast Alaska and from the top of Mount Saint Elias and Chugach Mountain ranges westward to the Pacific coast, including all of the islands off the coast of Alaska.  Also the Kenai Peninsula and the Alaskan Peninsula and the west coast of Alaska.  In general, an area the black bear can get salmon.  In the continental United States on the west coast of Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

REMARKS The black bear is one of North America's most common and adaptable big game animals.  hunted by baiting (where lawful), with the hunter concealed in a blind or tree stand (method favored by bow hunters). For bait, some experts prefer old bakery goods, especially sweets, instead of traditional slaughterhouse offal or fish.  Probably the surest hunting method is by tracking with a pack of hounds (where lawful).  A fat or aged bear, or one just out of hibernation with soft feet, will soon play out and tree, but one in good condition has far more stamina than a cougar or jaguar, and will frequently escape dogs.  The sport in bear hunting with hounds is in the training of the dogs and watching the dogs work, and in following them (or trying to follow them) while the bear is seen.  Once a bear has treed, it is a good idea to stalk it and shoot from concealment from a distance, because the bear will often break from the tree when it senses the hunter's approach.

TAXONOMIC NOTES As many as 16 subspecies are listed in the literature. Other than color variations, there is no scientific evidence that they are truly different.


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The Coastal (Pacific) Black Bear currently has 452 Entries listed in the SCI Record Book!

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