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

Photo: Mike Carraway 

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.

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.

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.

Learn more by reading the Black Bear species profile.

UNC-TV NC Now Black Bears in North Carolina - interview with Black Bear & Furbearer Biologist Colleen Olfenbuttel (video)

Release of yearling bear after being rehabilitated as an orphaned bear cub (video)

Black bear sow and cub (Photo by Ken Taylor/NCWRC)

Seasons & Limits Bear Season Maps Management

Surveys & ReportsHave a problem?Cooperator Program

Related Links

Black Bear Species Profile

Co-Existing with Bears