Black Bear - Ursus americanus
FWP Conservation Tier
Coat black (often with white on chest), brown or blond; slight shoulder hump, but highest point of body above hips; muzzle straight and long in profile; claws of front feet dark, strongly curved, and shorter (seldom more than 1 1/2 inches) than those of Grizzly Bear; males weigh 180-250 lbs., occasionally up to 400 lbs.; females weigh 120-180 lbs. Largly nocturnal; usually solitary; dig less elaborate dens than Grizzly Bears, often in natural cavities (trees, rocks), under logs, brush piles, or even buildings; climb trees easily (MFWP). Pelage color varies, usually black in the eastern U.S., black, brown, cinnamon, blue-black, or whitish in western North America; snout brown, straight in profile; small rounded ears; five toes on both front and rear feet; head and body length 150-180 cm, tail about 12 cm, mass about 90-140 kg for females, 115-270 kg for males (Nowak 1991, Burt and Grossenheider 1964).
Differs from the Grizzly Bear in having the claws of the forefeet only a little longer than those on the hind feet (about twice as long in the Grizzly Bear), length of second upper molar less than 29.5 mm (in part of range where Grizzly Bear occurs), snout profile straight rather than dished, and in lacking a prominent hump at the shoulders; maximum size of Black Bear is less than that of the Grizzly Bear (170-280 cm head and body length) (Nowak 1991, Hall 1981).
Western Hemisphere Range
Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)
Non-migratory, but Black Bears sometimes exhibit long distance movements.
Dense forests; riparian areas; open slopes or avalanche chutes during spring green-up (MFWP). Habitat use tied to seasonal food availability/plant phenology. Dry mountain meadows in early spring; snow slides, stream bottoms, wet meadows in early and mid-summer. May concentrate in berry and whitebark pine areas in fall (Barnes and Bray 1967, Tisch 1961, Jonkel and Cowan 1971).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at email@example.com
or (406) 444-3655.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.
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- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
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- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Grasses, sedges, berries, fruits, inner bark of trees, insects, honey, eggs, carrion, rodents, occassional ungulates (especially young and domestic), and (where available) garbage (MFWP). Diet varies: Spring - primarily vegetation (grasses, umbels, and horsetails); summer - herbaceous and fruits; fall - berries, nuts, and some vegetation. Insects a frequent component of diet. Also mammals, birds, and carrion (usually minor) (Tisch 1961).
Sympatric with Grizzly Bear but more prone to occupying closed canopy areas. Natural cub and adult mortality low, sub-adult mortality higher (Jonkel and Cowan 1971). Black Bears sometimes involved in various crop/property depredations.
Similar to Grizzly Bear, except females often first breed at 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 years of age; in very poor habitat, may not breed until 6 1/2 (MFWP). Estrus May 25 to August 10; peak in June. In NW MT first estrus at 4.5 years, often no litter until 6.5 years old. Average litter size 1.5 to 1.8 young/female. Litters every 2 to 3 years. Reproductive rates may be tied to softmast availability (Jonkel and Cowan 1971).
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View WorldCat Record View Online Publication
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