|Scientific Name:||Ursus americanus Pallas, 1780|
Although commonly known as the American black bear, coat color (even within a single litter) ranges from black to various shades of brown. Black-colored bears predominate in the eastern and northern parts of the range, whereas the proportion of brown-colored individuals generally increases moving westward: brown-colored black bears predominate in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of the Rocky Mountains (Rounds 1987). Variation in color-phase occurs within individual states and provinces, related to habitat and weather (Beecham and Rohlman 1994). A rare white (non-albino) color phase, associated with a single recessive gene, occurs in coastal British Columbia (Ritland et al. 2001). A very rare “blue” (grey) color phase known as the Glacier bear occurs in northwestern British Columbia and along the coast of Alaska (McTaggart Cowan 1938, Obbard 1987).
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Least Concern ver 3.1|
|Assessor(s):||Garshelis, D.L., Scheick, B.K., Doan-Crider, D.L., Beecham, J.J. & Obbard, M.E.|
|Reviewer(s):||van Manen, F.T.|
This species is widespread and occupies a large portion of its historical range. The global population is estimated at more than twice that of all other species of bears combined. Within the United States, populations have been expanding numerically and geographically. Legal hunting is the primary cause of mortality and is well controlled by state and provincial management agencies in the U.S. and Canada, respectively. Hunting is banned in Mexico. Population-level threats exist in only a few isolated places, and relate mainly to habitat fragmentation and conflicts between bears and people. Many management agencies are more concerned with controlling population growth of this species through legal harvest than promoting further growth and geographic expansion (which could increase human–bear conflicts).
|Previously published Red List assessments:|
American black bears range across three countries: 12 provinces and territories of Canada (all except Prince Edward Island, where they were once abundant, but the last known one shot in 1927; Sobey 2007); 41 U.S. states (with sightings but undefined ranges in 5 other states); and 6 states of northern Mexico (Scheick and McCown 2014) (with sightings in 4 other Mexican states and a recent record of a dead bear farther south in the state of Hidalgo; Rojas-Martínez and Juárez-Casillas 2013). The species never existed outside of these three countries, although the southern historic limit is not well known. The present range falls within 69°29´ to 23°14´ N (with the incidental record in Hidalgo at 21°05’30” N) and 52°49´ to 164°10´W.
Native:Canada; Mexico; United States
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
Heavily persecuted since European settlement of North America, compounded by loss of forest cover, American black bear populations rapidly declined, and probably reached a nadir in the early 1900s. Greater state and provincial protection for bears enabled populations to slowly recover. More rapid growth occurred with increasing protective measures since the late 1980s (Williamson 2002). By 1999, 60% of U.S. and Canadian states and provinces reported increasing populations, and other jurisdictions appeared to be either stable or fluctuating with no clear trend (Garshelis and Hristienko 2006). Many of these trend assessments, though, were not derived from serial estimates of population size.
|Current Population Trend:||Increasing|
|Habitat and Ecology:|
American black bears are primarily a species of temperate and boreal forests, but they also range into subtropical areas of Florida and Mexico as well as into the subarctic. They live at elevations ranging from sea level to 3,500 m, and inhabit areas as diverse as dry Mexican deserts and scrub forests, Louisiana swamps, Alaskan rainforests, and Labrador tundra (where they occupy the typical niche of the grizzly bear; Veitch and Harrington 1996). Between these extremes they occupy assorted deciduous and coniferous forest types, each providing a different array of foods.
|Use and Trade:||
A looming concern, but not a widespread problem in North America, is the poaching of bears for their paws and gall bladders, which may be sold commercially. Those products, particularly bile from gall bladders, are highly valued by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Several U.S. states and Canadian provinces allow the sale of bear parts taken legally by hunters, either within that jurisdiction or transported into that jurisdiction from elsewhere (Williamson 2002). An argument can be made that this creates opportunities for poachers to employ an illicit pathway into the legal, commercial trade. However, illegal trade appears to be very limited.
Throughout most of its range, this species is not threatened. Legal sport hunting is well controlled by state and provincial agencies to fit management objectives, and most states and provinces that harvest bears have a management plan (Hristienko and McDonald 2007). American black bears are harvested as a game species in all 12 Canadian provinces and territories where they exist and in 31 U.S. states. Since the early 2000s, 6 states with increasing bear populations opened bear hunting seasons ― Florida, New Jersey and Maryland, after 21-, 33- and 51-year closures, respectively, and Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Nevada for the first time in their management history. The sport harvest for this species in Canada and the U.S. totals 40,000–50,000 annually. Currently, black bears are not legally hunted in Mexico, but some conditional permits are allowed for depredation cases.
n the U.S. and Canada, black bears are managed by individual states and provinces, so although an IUCN conservation action plan exists for this species (Pelton et al. 1999), each state and province sets their own goals and methods for achieving those goals. As a whole, this has worked well to re-establish robust populations of black bears across their range. Several key factors aided the rapid rebound of American black bears since the 1980s: (1) improved habitat, (2) large dispersal distances in high-quality habitat (Moore et al. 2014), (3) relatively high reproductive rates, (4) reduced human-caused mortality, and (5) better information about the biology and ecology of bears combined with better population monitoring techniques (Miller 1990).
|Errata reason:||The previous version of this assessment accidentally used the estimated total number of American Black Bears as the number of mature individuals. That error is corrected here.|
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|Citation:||Garshelis, D.L., Scheick, B.K., Doan-Crider, D.L., Beecham, J.J. & Obbard, M.E. 2016. Ursus americanus. (errata version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41687A114251609.Downloaded on 13 December 2017.|
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