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Arizona Black Bear

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The American Black Bear is the most common bear in North America and is also the smallest. It is the only species of bear still found in Arizona. Standing on its hind feet, a male black bear can reach 7 feet tall. An average male will weigh from about 115 to 600 pounds and females weigh between 90 and 400 pounds. The largest black bear ever recorded weighed 880 pounds.

Characteristics and Behavior

Typically, black bears are solitary animals except in family groups of mother and cubs, breeding pairs or when they congregate at feeding sites. They are shy, curious and very intelligent. The black bear's diet primarily consists of berries, cactus fruit, roots, insects and sometimes livestock. They also seem to like whatever campers eat because they will often raid food items at camp sites.

Generally black bears will hibernate from November through March. Cubs are born during January in winter dens and usually come in pairs. New born cubs are quite small, generally weighing less than 1 pound. Cubs emerge from the den in April and stay with their mother through the first summer and fall, and den with her their second winter. Female black bears in Arizona usually reach reproductive age in their fourth year, and usually breed every other year.

Black bears are relatively long lived animals, with some black bears living as long as 20 years of age.

Black Bear Habitat and Territory

Arizona Black Bear

The habitat of black bears is primarily at elevations from 4,000 to 10,000 feet in light and heavy forested regions as well as desert riparian areas. They roam in territories of five to fifty square miles. Frequent sightings occur in the Arizona White Mountains region, along the Mogollon Rim areas of Payson and even close to Phoenix in the Four Peaks area.

During periods of drought, black bears will move long distances to find pockets of food. In fact in recent times, black bears have entered the metro areas of Phoenix and Tucson in search of food.

Black Bear Quick Facts

Size: Approximately 5' tall. Males are significantly larger than females.

Weight: 200-500 lbs.

Diet: Listed in the order Carnivora, but is actually an omnivore. Eat bulbs, berries, shoots, nuts, insects, grubs, fish, small animals and some larger prey. Also eat carrion (dead animal remains). Will eat refuse when available, so campers must seal all food and trash containers.

Range: Northern Canada all the way south to Arizona and Northern Mexico.

Habitat: Meadows, forests, swamps and wooded mountains.

Life Span: up to 32 years.

Status: In most areas numbers are declining due to loss of habitat.

Locomotion: Lumber on all four legs but capable of running up to 30 mph if necessary. Able to stand on hind legs for short periods to reach food overheard. Can also swim and climb trees.

Socialization: Solitary and inhabit individual territories (usually 2-15 sq. miles; males' territories are larger and may be up to 55 sq.miles). Most active at night, but sometimes seen during the day.

Breeding/Reproduction: Mating season is late spring - early summer. 1-2 cubs are born during December-January after 180-250 days gestation. Babies are born weighing ½ pound and almost naked. Cubs stay with their mother for 2 years.

Miscellaneous: Bears have extremely long claws on their front feet for digging and overturning large rocks. Males also use their claws to mark trees by scraping the bark. A bear's claws can prove more dangerous than their bite since they can make powerful swats to protect themselves.

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