About The Black Bear
General facts about Black Bears in Maine.
The Black Bear is the smallest of the three species of bears inhabiting North America (black, brown/grizzly, and polar), has the widest distribution on the continent, and is the only bear living in the eastern United States. Black Bears are found in most forested areas from Mexico north to the edge of the tree line in Canada and Alaska.
Although most Black Bears are not much larger than humans, their weight can vary tremendously with the season of the year. Bears store body fat during the fall months to supply energy during their long winter denning period, and are heaviest in late fall.
Adult males average 250 – 600 pounds, and measure 5-6 feet from tip of nose to the tip of their tail. Females are smaller, weighing 100-400 pounds, and measuring 4-5 feet in length. Males stand about 40 inches tall at the shoulder; females seldom exceed 30 inches in height.
Bears are compact, with stocky legs, small eyes, short, rounded ears, short curved claws, and a short, inconspicuous tail. The Black Bear has a straight facial profile and a massive skull. Black Bears in Maine are normally black, but they are often various shades of brown to cream colored in western populations, and are even white and blue-gray in color in coastal British Columbia and Alaska. They have a brown muzzle, and occasionally a white throat or chest patch or “blaze.” Bears walk flat-footed, and their broad feet leave 5-toed tracks that sometimes resemble human footprints. Tracks of female bears rarely exceed 4.5 inches in width; males leave tracks up to 6 inches wide.
Black Bears require forests for protection and food. They are amazingly adaptable to human presence, and are able to survive in close proximity to housing developments and suburban areas wherever cover to escape exists.
Bears are opportunists, and feed on a wide range of vegetation and animal matter. They eat a variety of plant matter throughout the growing season, including early greening grasses, clover, and the buds of hardwood trees in the spring, fruits and berries in summer, and beechnuts, acorns, and hazelnuts in the fall. This diet is supplemented with insects, including ants and bees (their larvae, adults, and honey), and occasional mammals and birds. Bears are not considered efficient predators, but they are known to prey on young deer and moose in late spring, and will consume carrion. Bears are intelligent and adapt rapidly to new food sources, including agricultural crops and food placed to attract other wildlife, such as bird feeders and untended garbage. Therefore, they occasionally cause problems for farmers, beekeepers, orchardists, and rural residents in the State.
Black Bears lead solitary lives, except for breeding pairs. Family groups are comprised of adult females and their offspring, and occasional aggregations occur at concentrated food sources.
Females utilize areas ranging from six to nine square miles in Maine. They are sedentary and remain within or near the range of their mother for the duration of their lives. Males disperse long distances (often up to 100 miles) as sub-adults (1-4 years of age) prior to settling into adult ranges that may exceed 100 square miles. Bears often make trips up to 40 miles outside of their ranges to feed on berries or nuts (or occasionally to an orchard or field of oats or corn) in late summer or fall.
When feeding on a concentrated food source, bears may use areas as small as several acres; when searching for dispersed food or mates, they can cover several miles in a day. Bears are active in late fall as long as food is plentiful. In years of abundant beechnut crops, they will feed until snow makes travel difficult, and normally enter dens in late November. If late fall food is scarce, bears usually enter dens by mid-October.
– Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife