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Population & Distribution of the Black Bear

Where in the world can American black bears be found?
American black bears are endemic to North America, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world except the one continent. Adaptive in nature, their distribution spans the entire continent, from the tip of Alaska to the country of Mexico. Historically, the American black bear lived in 49 of the 50 US states, with Hawaii being the exception. They also lived in all 10 Canadian provinces. Today, American black bears no longer inhabit Prince Edward Island in Canada, and are extirpated or nearly so in approximately 15 states which they originally inhabited:

Alabama                   50
Connecticut            30-50
Delaware                 extinct
Illinois                      extinct
Iowa                         extinct
Kansas                    extinct
Mississippi             25-50
Missouri                 50-150              
Nebraska                extinct
North Dakota         few
Ohio                         25
Rhode Island         3-6
South Dakota        few
Texas                       50

Statistics and distribution map taken from The Great Bear Almanac by Gary Brown (1993).

How many American black bears are there?
It is important to remember that determining the number of American black bears present in any given region is a difficult task. Bears are not easy to find, due to their shy and reclusive nature. Additionally, they may travel great distances in a single summer in search of food. Often, this transient behavior moves them across political boundaries, making it hard for agencies to get an accurate estimate of the population. At the time European settlers arrived, it is believed that there were about 500,000 American black bears roaming the continent. Today the number is actually higher, despite the fact that they have lost a considerable amount of their historic range. Population estimates for North American countries:

                     Canada                             342,500 - 395,500
                     United States                  286,600 - 328,000
                     Mexico                              Unknown, but uncommon
                     Total Population             630,000 - 725,000

                  Statistics taken from The Great Bear Almanac by Gary Brown (1993)

Evolution & Taxonomy

Habitat & Home Range