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Bear, American Black

Bear, American Black

Scientific Name: Ursus americanus americanus

Status: Least Concern

Habitat: forests throughout North America

Diet: These opportunistic omnivores will eat almost anything from invertebrates to carrion, grasses, fruits, berries, fish, small vertebrates, etc.

Length: 4–7 feet

Weight: 150–600 pounds

American black bears are the smallest and most prevalent of the bear species native to North America. Bears are the animal most commonly associated with hibernation, though they do not truly hibernate. It’s more accurate to say that they experience a winter lethargy or torpor. Though their metabolisms do slow down, it is not as dramatic as rodents, and torpid animals can and do awaken from time to time. Pregnant female bears come out of torpor long enough to give birth. Since seasonal temperatures do not fluctuate very dramatically in Southern California and food sources tend to remain stable year round, our local bears (including the Zoo’s resident black bear) do not go into torpor.

Female American black bears have a strong maternal instinct, and they spend most of their lives preparing to have cubs and raising their cubs. Litter sizes range from on to six cubs but the average is two or three. Bear cubs are “altricial,” meaning that they are completely dependent on their mother for the first year, but usually stay with her a second year for protection.

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