North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Black Bear

Scientific Name:
Ursus americanus
Classification: Game Species (Big Game)
Abundance: Common in coastal and mountain regions of the state, Uncommon in Piedmont region

Species Profile (PDF)

Coexist with Bears (PDF)

Attention Bear E-Stamp Holders!
Access Survey

Access Survey                              



Bear Hunters!

Click here or the logo to see a video on how to remove the premolar from your harvested bear.  


Additional Black Bear Information


The black bear is the only bear species found in North Carolina or anywhere in the eastern United States. The successful comeback of the American black bear in North Carolina represents one of wildlife management's greatest achievements. Black bears were once restricted to remote areas and reached very low population levels in the mid-1900s. Today, black bears are found approximately 60% of the total land area of North Carolina.

As habitat is developed and human populations increase, it is ultimately human attitudes toward bears that will determine whether bears will continue to exist in the state. Unfortunately, bears are viewed either as dangerous animals or cuddly pets. It is best to avoid these extreme views and instead show a healthy respect for this magnificent forest animal.

Their diets typically consist of acorns, berries, carrion, corn, fish, frogs, fruits, grasses, grubs, honey, insects, larvae, leaves, nuts, peanuts, reptiles, roots, seeds, small mammals, soybeans and wheat. Bears prefer large expanses of uninhabited woodland or swampland with dense cover. In the east, lowland hardwoods, swamps and pocosins, provide good bear habitat.  These types of habitat provide the necessary travel corridors, escape cover and natural foods that bears need to thrive in North Carolina.

History and Status

Click here for a detailed report on the History of NC bears (PDF)

Before Europeans came to the New World, black bears lived in all forested regions of North America and were abundant in the area that would one day become North Carolina. However, like mountain lions and gray wolves, black bears were often killed by early settlers to protect their families, crops and livestock. In time, bears across the state were impacted by human development. By the early 1900s, black bears were found only in the most remote mountains and coastal swamps of the Tarheel State. Compounding the decrease in available habitat, the American chestnut blight (a tree-killing fungus) hit the mountain region in the 1920s, causing the loss of the most important nut-producing tree for bears and other species of wildlife. As a result, bear populations suffered. Mountain lion and gray wolf populations never recovered, but the black bear has made a remarkable recovery in both population and range over the last 30 to 40 years. Bears have come back to North Carolina without the aid of stocking efforts like those used to bring back wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. Black bear expansion has occurred naturally as bears have moved into suitable, but previously unoccupied, habitats at a rapid rate. Today, there are approximately 15,000 bears in the state, occupying about 60% of the state’s total land area.


The black bear is an omnivore with a diet of both plants and animals. It varies in color: in North Carolina, the black bear is usually black with a brown muzzle and sometimes a white patch on its chest, commonly referred to as a chest blaze. In other areas of North America, black bears can be a very common brown color or a more rare blue and white. All bear species have five toes on each foot and each toe has a sharp curved claw enabling the bear to feed on insects and grubs in decaying logs. Black bears rely mostly on their sense of smell and hearing due to poor eyesight, but are adept at climbing, running, swimming and digging. They have been clocked at speeds of 35 miles per hour over short distances.


Bears prefer large expanses of uninhabited woodland or swampland with dense cover. In the east, lowland hardwoods, swamps and pocosins, provide good bear habitat. Recent research has shown bears to be much more adaptable to habitat changes than previously thought and some bears have adapted to living near developed areas.

Denning and Hibernation

Bears put on additional weight in autumn to prepare for winter denning. They build dens in cavities of live trees, hollow logs, caves, rock outcroppings, cavities in the ground, or in a thicket. Usually black bears construct nests of leaves, sticks, and grass within the den, which often resemble giant bird nests. In North Carolina, den entry can occur as early as November or as late as January, though male bears in the coastal plain region may active throughout winter. Most North Carolina bears emerge from their dens in March or early April, depending on the weather and mobility of their cubs. To find out more about bear hibernation, click here.

 Related Documents

Black Bear Public Forum Schedule 2017

N.C. Black Bear Management Plan
2012 - 2022

North Carolina Black Bear Annual Report (PDF)

Black Bear Management in NC (PDF)

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's black bear management involves:


Bear safely crossing Highway 64 by using a wildlife
underpass in Washington County.

 NCWRC oversees all bear research conducted in North Carolina through direct studies by Commission personnel as well as participation and oversight on a variety of research projects involving professors and students from universities.

In recent years, numerous universities including Auburn University, North Carolina State, the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech have performed research in North Carolina under permit from NCWRC.

Research has focused on issues ranging from bear habitat use and home ranges to procedures for estimating bear populations and reducing vehicle collisions. The results of these research studies are often published in scientific journals.






A cinnamon-phase black bear observed
in Avery County.

(Photo credit: Travis Proctor)

NCWRC biological staff can assess the status of the bear population through various monitoring indices derived from harvest, non-harvest mortality, scent stations, nuisance activity, and bear observations. This information, collected over along time period, allow us to monitor population age structure and reproductive parameters of the bear population. This data also helps NCWRC to estimate population levels.  The information derived from these monitoring activities help NCWRC track trends in the bear population and provides for science-based decision making and biologically-sound management principles.

Below you will find reports on the surveys conducted by NCWRC biologists:



*LIVE Current Season Reported Harvest Totals*


Hunters, we need your help! Click here to find out how you can participate in the Bear Cooperator Program!


Reported Black Bear Harvest Summaries (all files are in pdf)

Black Bear Harvests by County

Black Bear Harvest Summaries by Region

Black Bear Harvest Summaries

Black Bear Harvest by Method

Black Bear Harvest by Weapon-type

Black Bear Weights Summary

Black Bear Harvest by Game Land

2017 Official Black Bear Harvest

2016 Official Black Bear Harvest

2015 Official Black Bear Harvest

2014 Official Black Bear Harvest

2013 Official Black Bear Harvest

2012 Official Black Bear Harvest

2011 Official Black Bear Harvest

2010 Official Black Bear Harvest

2009 Official Black Bear Harvest

2008 Official Black Bear Harvest

2007 Official Black Bear Harvest

2006 Official Black Bear Harvest

2005 Official Black Bear Harvest

2004 Official Black Bear Harvest

2003 Official Black Bear Harvest

2002 Official Black Bear Harvest

2001 Official Black Bear Harvest

2000 Official Black Bear Harvest

Coastal Bear Harvest 1996-2017

Piedmont Bear Harvest 1996-2017

Mountain Bear Harvest 1996- 2017


Statewide Bear Harvest Graph 1976-2017

Statewide Bear Harvest Table 1976- 2017


Bear Harvest By Method 2009-2017

2017 Bear Harvest By Method

2016 Bear Harvest By Method

2015 Bear Harvest By Method

2014 Bear Harvest by Method

2013 Bear Harvest by Method

2012 Bear Harvest by Method

2011 Bear Harvest by Method

2010 Bear Harvest by Method

 Bear Harvest By Weapon-Type 1981-2017 

2017 Bear Harvest By Weapon-Type

2016 Bear Harvest By Weapon-Type

2015 Bear Harvest By Weapon-type

2014 Bear Harvest by Weapon-type

2013 Bear Harvest by Weapon-type

2012 Bear Harvest by Weapon-type

2011 Bear Harvest by Weapon-type

2010 Bear Harvest by Weapon-type

NC Black Bear Weights (1969-2016)


Bear Harvest By Game Land 2008 -2017



State Hunter Harvest Survey Estimates

2012-2016 Bear Hunting and Harvest Estimate Maps


NOTE: All files are in PDF format. You will need Adobe Reader® to read reports.
If you don't have Reader, use this
link to get the latest version.

Black bears are an important part of North Carolina's fauna. As human populations increase, it is ultimately human attitudes toward bears that will determine whether bears will continue to exist in the state. Unfortunately, bears are viewed either as dangerous animals or cuddly pets. It is best to avoid these extreme views and instead show a healthy respect for this magnificent forest animal.

Please read how you can take simple, common-sense steps to do your part in ensuring that bears and people can live together. Implementing these steps will avoid attracting bears to your property and prevent conflicts from occurring. Remember, prevention is the best medicine!

Preventing and Resolving Black Bear Conflicts







UNC-TV North Carolina Now Broadcast


The Bear Facts: A Story of a North Carolina Treasure

You can purchase this documentary about the history and biology of black bears in North Carolina.

Bear Facts DVD



Attention Educators
(K-4 through high school)!

Click below to find out how you can receive a free copy of our  Educator’s Edition Bear DVD for your classroom.

Educator’s Interactive Free DVD

Purchase the Bear Facts DVD Educator's Edition: The Bear Facts
See UNC-TV North Carolina Now Broadcast

Why Report?

  • Your information allows NCWRC biologists to better monitor bear populations, make management decisions, and evaluate the impacts of bear harvests.
  • By recording age and sex of harvested bears over a period of years, biologists can more accurately model bear populations.
  • We will send you a complimentary “North Carolina Black Bear Cooperator” ball cap and an age report for your bear in September following the season.


***** We need information on all harvested bears, young and old, to accurately model the bear population. *****


How to submit?

  1. After pulling both upper premolar teeth (see instructions below), place the teeth in the bear tooth envelope you received in the mail from the NCWRC.  The bear tooth envelope is postage-paid and self-addressed, so all you have to do is place it in the mailbox.
  2. If you need assistance, contact our field wildlife staff.  If you don’t know the local wildlife staff, call the numbers below:

During 1st week of bear season:



Remainder of the Bear Hunting Season:

(919) 707-0050

  1. If you lost the bear tooth envelope that you recieved in the mail, you can tape both the teeth to this downloadable data sheet and mail it to the address on the bottom of the data sheet.


Instructions for Collecting Bear Teeth


Click here for a YouTube video on pulling the bear’s upper premolars from your harvested bear!

Please submit both first premolars from the upper jaw (see picture below). Click on picture for a closer view.

  1. The tooth we need is the very small tooth immediately behind the upper canine tooth (see drawing).
  2. Use a screwdriver, ice pick, or knife blade to push the gum down and away from the tooth.
  3. Pull the tooth out with pliers or pry it out using the canine as a lever.
  4. Put both premolar teeth in the envelope, then seal it. Fill in the data on the envelope, including your address if you want us to send the age of the bear to you and get a hat. Envelope is postage-paid and self-addressed, so you can just put it in the mailbox.
  5. If you are unable to pull a premolar, the jaw can be cut. 

Instructions for Collecting Bear Teeth