Species: U. americanus
Common Names: Black Bear, American Black Bear
Black bears are omnivores that eat both plants and animals. Their diet is largely vegetables such as berries, buds and nuts, as well as insects including ants, beetles, and bees (whose honey they also enjoy eating). Certain subspecies eat a large number of fish, such as salmon, and they may even prey on the young of deer, elk and moose.
Black bears are known for their hibernating behavior. Hibernation is a process in which the bears go into a dormant state for many months, not eating or drinking or leaving their dens. They do this when food is difficult to come by, especially in colder months of the year. Hibernation usually begins in the fall, and can last for up to eight months. Bears in warmer climates will hibernate for fewer months, or in some cases not at all. Before going into hibernation, bears will build up extra body fat to prepare, to give their body something to feed on while they are not consuming food.
Though they are named for their most common coloration of black, there is a wide range of possible colors for the fur of the black bear. There are several subspecies, including the cinnamon bear whose fur can be reddish brown, the glacier bear whose fur can be a silvery blue-gray, and the Kermode bear which can occasionally be all white.
Black bears can measure up to 79 inches long, and reach up to 41 inches at the shoulder. Their weight can vary depending on the location and subspecies, ranging between 200 pounds to nearly 300 pounds on average. In extreme cases they can be over a thousand pounds.
Black bears have a large presence in the folktales and mythology of many indigenous American peoples. Many of these stories feature a rivalry or hostility between black bears and grizzly bears, with one tale stating that black bears were created by the Great Spirit, while grizzly bears were made by the Evil Spirit.
Though they are not often shown with black fur, teddy bear plush toys were originally inspired by black bears. Similarly, so was the popular fictional character of Winnie the Pooh.
Black bears can be dangerous to humans, and should be treated with caution and respect. However, attacks are quite rare, and black bears usually try to avoid encounters with humans when possible. Whereas brown bears will attack out of territoriality or to protect their cubs, black bear attacks are usually a result of hunger.