Black Bear Habitats

Black Bear Habitats

Black bear habitats cover a wide range from Northern Canada and Alaska all the way to central Mexico.

These bears prefer heavily wooded regions or dense bush. In areas where black bears are most numerous, they can be found in forests of mixed coniferous and deciduous trees. They don't live too close to people by their choice.

These forested areas contain many small shrubs that produce fruit and nuts that the bears like to eat. They also enjoy the succulent vegetation that can be found in lowlands and wetlands.

Protein needs are met through fish and meat. Most bears will rely on finding carrion or will stalk newborn deer, moose, elk and caribou, depending on what lives in their range.

They also eat insects. Black bear habitats need pools or streams to supply water for drinking and for cooling off. They need some trees that are larger than 20 inches in diameter: these are strong enough for cubs to climb up for safety. Dens are often found in old growth areas.

Habitats will differ slightly depending where they live:

  • In the Southwest United States, they are limited to mountainous regions. These areas grow mostly pinion juniper and chaparral. The bears can also move into open areas to feast on prickly pear cactus.

  • In the Southeast, black bears can be found in two different habitats. The bear population in the southern Appalachian range live in a mixed forest, made up mostly of hickory and oak.

  • The bears in the coastal regions live in an area made up of swampy hardwood forests mixed with flatwoods and bays.

  • In the Northeast United States, black bear habitats are found in deep forest canopy made up of hardwoods like maple, birch, beech and coniferous evergreens. Swampland contains white cedar. Food sources include oak and hickory nuts as well as corn crops.

  • In the Pacific coast region, black bears live in areas with Sitka spruce, redwood and hemlocks as the primary forest cover. The bears travel from the heavily forested areas through high tidelands, wet and dry meadows, brush fields and farmlands.

  • In the Rockies, black bears range through forests populated mostly with spruce and fir.

While bears are somewhat territorial, they don't keep exclusive areas to themselves. One bear's range may overlap the ranges of several other bears. They may avoid meeting face to face with the other bears most of the time.

The range a bear travels in black bear habitat may also change from year to year, depending on the food supply. Males tend to have larger range than females. Females with cubs have even smaller home ranges, especially if the cubs were born that year.

Throughout the season, bears will tend to frequent different portions of their range as they follow what foods begin to produce. This means they may stay where the huckleberries are ripe for a couple weeks, then when the salmon run begins, they will find a good shallow area to claim as their own for the duration of the run.

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