Black bears are impressive animals.Black bears can smell and hear very well. They can also climb trees and are strong swimmers. Black bear can run 35 miles per hour and can live for more than 25years.
The black bear is a stocky animal with short, thick legs. It is the smallest North American bear. In Connecticut, adult males, or boars, normally weigh from 150 to 450 pounds, while females, or sows, weigh from 110 to 250 pounds. Yearlings weigh 45 to 100 pounds. Adults are 5 to 6 feet long.The black bear's coat is typically glossy black or brownish black, except for the muzzle, which is tan. There is sometimes a small, white patch on the chest. Eastern populations are usually black in color while western populations often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to black. Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier) bears and these unique color phases are only found in coastal British Columbia, Canada.Black bears have 5 toes with large claws on all feet. Bear tracks somewhat resemble human tracks, but the front feet are shorter than the rear. A bear’s tail is short, from 3 to 5 inches long. The sexes are similar in appearance, although males are usually larger.
It is estimated that there are at least 600,000 black bears in North America. In the United States, there are estimated to be over 300,000 individuals. However, the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolu) and Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) are threatened subspecies with small populations.
Black bear habitat is forestland, usually with deciduous and coniferous trees, as well as streams, swamps, and rock ledges. Bears prefer areas with thick understory vegetation and abundant food resources. Mature forests provide soft and hard mast (e.g., acorns) in late summer and fall. Wetlands are particularly important in spring when emerging plants are one of the few available foods. Bears are omnivorous; they eat grasses, forbs, fruits, nuts, and berries. They also will seek insects (particularly ants and bees), scavenge carrion, and raid bird feeders and garbage cans. Bears occasionally will prey on small mammals, deer, and livestock.
Female black bears mature as early as three years old. Breeding occurs from mid-June to mid-July, but in the eastern deciduous forest, mating season can extend into August. Female black bears usually breed every other year and cubs are born from early January to mid-February weighing ½ to ¾ lbs. Anywhere from 1-4 cubs are born at a time and are raised by their mother for about 1½ years. First-year cub mortality rates are about 20%, primarily due to predation (foxes, coyotes, dogs, bobcats, other bears) or abandonment by their mother. Adult bears do not have natural predators except humans.
When the mother is ready to breed again, she will send her yearlings to fend for themselves during the summer months when food is usually abundant. Always hungry, these yearling bears, particularly the males, will seek easy sources of food. The ability to access human related food sources can spell trouble for these bears.
When winter arrives, black bears spend the season dormant in their dens, feeding on body fat they have built up by eating ravenously all summer and fall. They make their dens in caves, burrows, brush piles, or other sheltered spots—sometimes even in tree holes high above the ground. Black bears den for various lengths of time governed by the diverse climates in which they live, from Canada to northern Mexico.