Big Sky Wildlife Spotlight: Black Bears

Black bears are the smallest bear species in North America. These solitary omnivores are quite adaptable. Roughly 600,000 black bears range from Canada to Mexico. This most definitely includes the mountains of Montana and Big Sky Country.

Black Bear | Pixabay Image
Black Bear | Pixabay Image

It's not uncommon to spot a black bear in or around Big Sky. These animals are quite tolerant of humans. They may be spotted in forests, fields, tundra, campsites, or right in the town of Big Sky. Keep your eyes out, because you never know where you might spot a black bear.

Let's take a look at some interesting facts about Black Bears:

  • The scientific name for a black bear is Ursus Americanus.
  • Black bear are the smallest of bear species in North America - grizzly and polar bears are larger.
  • Black bears stand 2 to 3 feet at shoulders and 4 to 7 feet long from nose to tail.
  • In Montana, black bears weigh between 180 to 400 pounds. The heaviest black bear ever weighed roughly 900 pounds.
  • On average, black bears live 20 years in the wild.
  • Black bears are omnivores that eat grasses, plants, fruits, insects, honey, small mammals, herbs, fruit, and fish.

Black Bear | Pixabay Image
Black Bear | Pixabay Image

  • Black bears have five toes on their front and rear feet.
  • They have long, non-retractable claws that allow them climb trees.
  • Black bears can run up 40 to 50 km/hour.
  • Black bears do NOT have the large hump that grizzly bears have.
  • They hibernate from roughly October to April, but if you disturb a hibernating black bear, it will wake up.
  • Black bears do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate during hibernation.
  • They breath once every 45 seconds during hibernation and drop their heart rate to 8 to 21 beats per minute.
  • There are estimated to be 600,000 black bears in North America.
  • A black bear has a home range of 15 to 80 square miles.
  • Females can give birth to up to 6 cubs every other year - 2 cubs is the average.
  • Gestation is 63 to 70 days. Cubs stay with their mom for up to 18 months.
  • Black bears can be hunted in 27 states, including Montana during the spring and fall.

Black Bear | Pixabay Image
Black Bear | Pixabay Image

When you're in Big Sky Country, always be bear aware. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. If you encounter a black bear in the wild, stand your ground. Speak firmly and slowly back away. The National Park Service says that if you are attacked by a black bear, you should NOT play dead. Use your bear spray and fight back.

As long as you are bear aware in Big Sky country (or anywhere) encounters are rare. Just remember that all black bears are wild creatures and should be treated with respect at all times.

If you capture a photo of a black bear near Big Sky be sure to share it on social media with #visitbigsky.

See Also:

Learn more interesting facts about black bears from these sources: