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Habitat & Home Range of the Black Bear

What type of habitat do American black bears live in?
Generally speaking, American black bears are forest dwellers. They can be found in deciduous, coniferous, or mixed forest regions from sea level to 10,000 feet in elevation. The habitat is usually characterized by thick understory vegetation and an abundant supply of fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs. However, they can also be found in the swamplands of the southeastern United States and the scrublands of the southwest. A subspecies of the American black bear even lives in the frozen tundra regions of Alaska and Canada.

What is the home range of an American black bear?
The home range of an American black bear can vary greatly depending on the location, the season, food availability, the density of individuals, and the sex and age of the individual in question. The home range of a male is normally larger than that of a female, and each male's home range will usually overlap the home ranges of several females. Generally, the poorer the habitat, the larger the home range must be in order to supply the bear with enough food, water, and shelter. While in some extreme instances a male American black bear could have a home range of over 100 square miles, a more typical size would be:

                                               Male              8 - 60 square miles
                                               Female         1 - 15 square miles

Are American black bears territorial?
In certain instances researchers have found some black bears, usually females, to be highly territorial. An intruder would be chased away or even seriously injured by the female in residence. Territoriality is possible with females because their smaller home range size allows them to defend it properly. It would be nearly impossible for a male American black bear to defend a home range that could measure as much as 100 square miles. Males generally forgo territoriality and instead rely on a dominance hierarchy to keep social order. Bears announce their presence by scent marking — urinating, defecating, and rubbing, scratching, and biting trees. More submissive bears will avoid areas where a dominant male is to be found. Occasionally, black bears will even congregate at an abundant food source — examples are the salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest or open garbage pits. While squabbles may erupt periodically, their need for food overrides their natural fear of one another.

Evolution & Taxonomy

Population & Distribution