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Range Map
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MAMMALS » LARGE
American Black Bear (Hunted)

American Black Bear (Hunted)
Ursus americanus

This is the largest carnivore in the state. They predominantly occur in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, but also occur in smaller numbers in the northern Cumberland Mountains and in a few places on the Cumberland Plateau (i.e. Big South Fork area, Savage Gulf).

Description
: A large, heavy mammal with a long, brown muzzle; medium-sized, rounded ears; small, dark eyes; short, stout legs; and a very short tail. The long, thick fur is glossy black often with a white patch on the chest. They have short, curved, non-retractable claws. Males are much larger than females.
Length: 50 - 78 inches
Tail: 4 - 5 inches
Ears: 5.4 inches
Weight: 200 - 600 pounds

Similar Species:
None.

Habitat
: They are primarily found in heavily wooded areas. Black bears den in hollow trees, caves, holes in the ground, or under downed trees or roots in the winter. The dens contain beds typically lined with grass, leaves, twigs, and bark.

Diet:
Black bears eat a variety of foods. They eat berries, fruits, seeds, acorns, bark, roots, grass, and other plant material. The animal foods they eat include ants, crickets, beetles, bees and their honey, fish, frogs, small rodents, fawns, bird eggs, and carrion.

Breeding information:
Mating occurs between May and July with females typically producing a litter every other year. Females give birth to a litter of 1-6 (average 2) cubs in January or February in the winter den. At birth, the cubs are blind, covered with fine gray hair, and weight ½ pound. Cubs open their eyes at 6 weeks and leave the den with the mother at 2 months old. Females continue to nurse them through the summer. When in danger cubs scamper up a tree.

Status in Tennessee:
The Tennessee black bear population has significantly increased since the 1970's through management and enforcement. Black bears are a hunted species in the state. A serious threat to individual bears is the deliberate or accidental feeding of human food, which causes that bear to habituate to humans and ultimately to have to be destroyed because of safety concerns.

Fun Facts
:

  • American Black Bears mark the trunks of trees with scratches and bite marks probably for designating territorial boundaries.
  • They are plantigrade, which means they walk on the soles of their feet with the heels touching the ground (like humans).

Best places to see in Tennessee: Remote forests of Appalachian Mountains.

For more information:

Sources:
Schwartz, C.W. and E.R. Schwartz. 2001. The Wild Mammals of Missouri, 2nd Edition. University of Missouri Press and Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, MO.