Winston is a male black bear (Ursus americanus) born in January 2010. As a young bear cub he ran into a pole while chasing a ball at another facility. His resulting head injury created motor skill problems. The other facility didn’t have the resources to help him, but we were able to bring him into our family and provide him with an enrichment program to treat his injuries. We provided obstacles for him including ropes, logs, balls, and rocks that he would have to maneuver around to receive food and treats, as well as companionship from Dori who pushed him to health by assisting him through his healing process. Even though we expected it to take two years for him to heal, he recovered in just 11 months! We continue to monitor him daily.

The Black Bear is North America’s smallest and most common species of bear. Black Bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on the season. They can become attracted to human communities because of the availability of food. Their fur is soft, with dense underfur and long, coarse, thick guard hairs. It is not as shaggy or coarse as that of brown bears. Despite their name, black bears have different color variations, from white, blond, cinnamon, or light brown to dark chocolate brown or to jet black. Black Bears have broad heads, narrow muzzles and large jaw hinges. Their short, rounded claws are typically black or grayish brown, and taper to a point. The ears are small, rounded, and set well back on the head. The soles of the feet are black or brownish, leathery and deeply wrinkled. Black bears are highly dexterous, and can open screw-top jars and door latches. They are very strong and have been known to flip over flat-shaped rocks weighing up to 325 pounds with a single foreleg. They move in a rhythmic, surefooted way and can run at speeds of 25–30 mph. Black bears have good eyesight and are intelligent. Experiments have proven that they are able to learn visual discrimination tasks based on color faster than chimpanzees and as fast as dogs. They also quickly learn to distinguish different shapes, such as small triangles, circles and squares.

Black Bears are considered highly efficient hibernators because their metabolism allows them to remain dormant for months without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating. Biologists have defined this as “specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism concurrent with scarce food and cold weather.”

The Black Bear has a widespread distribution and a large global population estimated to be twice that of all other bear species combined. They typically live in largely forested areas, but will leave in search of food. American Black Bears often mark trees with their claws to show dominance in their range, which is determined by the highest claw mark on the tree.


Black Bear Statistics:

Body Length at shoulder 47 – 79 inches 28 – 42 inches tail: 3-7 inches
Weight (Pre-den) Weight Males: 125 – 550 lbs Females: 90 – 275 lbs 30% higher than when they emerge in the Spring
Gestation Period 235 days
Litter Size Usually 2 cubs
Life Span 18 years in the wild Up to 44 years in captivity
Status Least Concern