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Size of the Black Bear

How much does an American black bear weigh?
Adolph Murie, the famous naturalist, once said, "A bear a long distance from a scale always weighs more." The general public often misjudges the weights of black bears. While they are large, they are not the 4,000-pound beasts that some visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park describe.

Weights can vary greatly depending on the age, health, and sex of the bear as well as the season and the condition of the habitat. Seasonality is a major factor — pre-denning weight in the fall is considerably higher than the weight of the bear when it emerges from hibernation in the spring. American black bears exhibit sexual dimorphism, where males are generally 33% larger than their female counterparts of the same age. American black bears on the East Coast of North America are larger than those found on the West Coast. Average weights are:

                                     Males  —  250 lbs. (range from 125 lbs. to over 600 lbs.)
                                     Females — 150 lbs. (range from 90 lbs. to over 300 lbs.


What is the record weight of an American black bear?
The world record weight for an American black bear is 880 pounds. This was the recorded weight of a 10.75 year-old male bear shot in North Carolina in November 1998.

A black bear was hit and killed by a car near Winnipeg Canada, in 2001. The official recorded weight was 856.5 pounds, but it is estimated that the live weight of this large male was more than 886 pounds. The driver was not injured and there appeared to be little damage to the Mazda.

An 805-pound male American black bear was shot in Manitoba Canada, and in Pennsylvania males fairly consistently reach the record weight of 800+ pounds.

How do American black bears compare in weight to the other species of bears?
American black bears are neither the largest nor the smallest of the eight bear species. Brown bears and polar bears, the largest land carnivores in the world, far outweigh American black bears. The sun bears of Malaysia are the smallest, weighing in at an average of 100 pounds. The Asiatic black bear, giant panda, sloth bear, and spectacled bear all have average weights similar to those of the American black bear. However, none of them have the potential of growing as large — they rarely exceed 300 pounds. For more on the weights of these species, see Bears of the World.

How tall is an American black bear?
The height of a bear is measured from the bottom of its paw, flat on the ground, to the highest point of the shoulders. An adult male American black bear will measure between 2½ and 3 feet tall. This is approximately the same height as a Siberian tiger.

How long is an American black bear?
The length of a bear is measured from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. An adult American black bear will measure between 4 and 6 feet in length. While American black bears are approximately the same height as Siberian tigers, they have very compact bodies and are not nearly as long — Siberian tigers measure up to 13 feet in length.

Evolution & Taxonomy

Habitat & Home Range

Population & Distribution