Discover fun and interesting black bear facts – and know that you might just see a black bear in our Western North Carolina home.
Living in Asheville, NC, we are fortunate to have plenty of black bear families in our neighborhood; they are both pesky and cute.
Throughout the spring, we are lucky if a purple flower survives the week and forget having decorative planters out front.
The cubs will flip them over and play in the dirt, picking out insects to eat.
We watch as momma tries to teach her babies how to climb trees – and both our trees and trash cans are scarred with bear claw marks.
Of course, with local wildlife comes great responsibility, and we have to be careful with our trash and food; we even rent bear-proof trash cans from the city.
We want to keep our bears safe, especially from us humans.
With such furry and slightly terrifying neighbors, we had to gather as many facts about black bears as we could, both fun – such as where the teddy bear came from – and interesting, like how fast black bears can run.
Below, uncover just a few things you might not have known about black bears. Let’s get started!
You might also enjoy these bear gifts.
This post may contain affiliate links that earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. If you love these guides, support Uncorked Asheville here.
12 Black Bear Facts You Might Not Have Known
By Jeremy Paterson
1. Black bears are not always black
It may seem like one of the least believable black bear facts, but it turns out that quite a lot of black bears are not actually black.
Quite to the contrary, one of the more interesting facts about black bears is that they come in a whole range of different colors!
Many black bears have fur coats that are actually blue-black, or even blue-gray, and the California black bear sports a cinnamon-colored shade of fur.
But those aren’t to be confused with actual cinnamon bears, which live further up the coast in Oregon, Washington, and parts of the Midwest.
Further north, there are even black bears with very white fur – these are Kermode bears, also known as spirit bears!
2. There are a lot of black bears
Black bears are not (currently) considered to be on the road toward extinction.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the American black bear is on the “of least concern” list when it comes to making sure there are enough black bears in the world.
Actually, one of the best facts about black bears to hear is that they are thriving.
There are estimated to be twice as many black bears roaming around as there are all other kinds of bears combined, partly due to their wide spread across the globe.
3. Black bears are not as closely related to other bears as most people believe
Despite clearly being from the same family, the rift between black bears and other large bears began a lot earlier than you might think.
Today’s black bears – ursus americanus – are actually quite distant from other bear species, such as polar bears and grizzly bears.
This is one of the more surprising American black bear facts, considering that grizzlies and black bears share some of the same territories, globally speaking.
Black bears deviated from other bears over 5 million years ago, when they last had a shared ancestor.
In North Carolina, if you happen upon a bear, it will be a black bear (despite its fur color), while brown bears inhabit the more northwestern areas of the Americas.
4. Black bears are not as big as brown bears
One of the cuter facts about black bears is that they are more huggable-sized than their ursine cousins.
Your average black bear is only 5 to 6 feet long, from head to tail. Sometimes a particularly tall black bear can reach 6 and a half feet long, but those are rare.
When they’re born, black bears weigh less than 1 pound on average. They’re also blind and toothless, making them very vulnerable!
However, black bears put on weight very quickly, and after just one year they can weigh around 80 pounds.
If you’re worried about encountering a bear, it’s the grizzly that would appear more intimidating; an adult grizzly male can be over 9 feet long and weigh over 1300 pounds!
5. Black bears eat lots of things
As we know from watching bears in movies and on TV, they have a wide and varied diet, eating anything from honey and marmalade sandwiches to the contents of the average picnic basket.
This is also true for black bears in the wild – it’s one of the fun facts about black bears that we have in common!
Like us humans, black bears are omnivores and subsist on a diet of all sorts of things.
Every year, black bears will dine on herbs, grasses, roots, berries, and fruit, as well as insects, fish, the occasional deer, and even the leftover remains from the meals of other predators.
They are especially partial to beechnuts and acorns in the fall.
6. Black bears can live to be middle-aged
As any black bear facts fan will tell you, they have an average lifespan in the wild of 18 years. But they can live a lot longer.
The oldest wild black bear ever recorded was more than twice that age at 39 years old!
In captivity, with care and a controlled, regular diet, they can live even longer; there was once a black bear who lived to be 44 years old.
7. Black bears make great athletes
Anyone thinking of training for a triathlon could learn a lot from black bears because they excel in two main areas: running and swimming.
Black bears have been recorded at running speeds of 30 miles per hour or more on land, outstripping a human at almost four times the speed.
They’re also adept at traversing water; black bears can easily cover distances of over a mile, or even a mile and a half in freshwater.
So they can easily swim up rivers and across some lakes.
These athletic black bear facts mean that if you were both competing in a triathlon, the bear would most likely win. But you’d definitely do better at cycling.
8. Male black bears have a wide territory
Out in the wild, male black bears will make their home over a large area.
If food is not as available as they would like, a black bear will mark out an area between 15 and well over 75 square miles as its base of operations.
But that’s only males; female black bears will stay much closer to their hibernation spot than males, in order to help bring up their cubs.
You can’t talk about black bears without mentioning the formidable protective momma bear!
9. Black bears are responsible for the invention of the teddy bear
This is definitely one of the most fun facts about black bears: the first ever teddy bears were based on black bears!
Back in November 1902, then-President Theodore Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Mississippi with the state governor.
After most other members of the hunting party had been successful, some men from Roosevelt’s staff chased down a small black bear and brought it to the President.
But Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear.
News of the event spread, and Brooklyn candy shop owner Morris Mitchum decided to make a small stuffed black bear cub toy to commemorate the event.
He put it in his shop window with the sign “Teddy’s Bear” after the President; the toy became wildly successful, and the rest is history.
Never Miss Another Asheville Update
Tired of generic Asheville travel itineraries? Experience Asheville like a local with our free Asheville Favorites checklist, including restaurants, breweries, and hiking. Plus, get local updates – including events and hidden gems – straight to your inbox. Sign up here.
10. Black bears can climb trees
You may have been told at some point that one effective way to escape from a potentially dangerous or angry bear is to climb a tree. But this is a myth!
Depending on your point of view, this is either one of the coolest or most terrifying black bear facts.
Black bears are highly adept at climbing trees and may follow you if you decide to escape vertically (which we advise against).
The long, sharp claws of a black bear make it very good at scaling trees.
Black bears have even been known to have fought in trees, with the one at the bottom having the upper hand (or paw).
11. Black bears sometimes hibernate for longer than just the winter
The idea of bears gathering large quantities of fat and then hibernating for the winter is well known, but sometimes they don’t just wait out the cold.
In reality, black bears can settle in for a hibernation period of anywhere from 3 to 8 months in one sitting – it’s one of the black bear hibernation facts that most people don’t know.
When October/November rolls around, black bears will put on dozens of pounds of body fat and then curl up in their den in a specially chosen spot.
These tend to be inside hollow trees, under logs, or inside caves or culverts.
One of the great American black bear facts is that they are some of the world’s most efficient hibernators!
12. Black bears will break into your car for food
This could be one of the most important facts: remember to keep track of your snacks!
Because of their exceptional sense of smell, black bears will not only travel great distances to find food but they will not hesitate to smash their way through something to get it.
Campsites may be visited by bears attracted by food in the trash as well, so make sure to keep track of your leftovers!
Save These Facts About Black Bears For Later:
What interesting facts about black bears do you know?
Of course, there are endless black bear facts out there. What are some of your favorites?
Have you seen a black bear in person? Have you ever run into one on a trail? Let us know in the comments.
Thank you to UA contributor, Jeremy Paterson
Jeremy (pronouns: any) is an autistic writer, hobbyist, and movie buff, as long as that movie is Labyrinth. Since leaving the corporate world behind in 2018, he has read more books than he thought possible. True to his British upbringing, his first instinct in any given situation is to put the kettle on.
Do you enjoy facts? Try these:
Biltmore Estate Facts
Smoky Mountain Facts