California Black Bears

The California black bear known by its scientific name Ursus americanus californiensis is a type of black bear that lives in areas of and surrounding California. It is a subspecies of the American black bear.

California black bear in a grassy field.

It is one of two subspecies of black bear, the other being the Olympic black bear, to live in California. Here is everything you need to know about the California black bears plus some interesting facts.

Habitat

The California black bear prefers coastal mountainous terrain around Southern California all the way to the Cascade Range in Central Oregon.

These bears live at elevations between 3000 to 7000 feet and are separated from the Olympic black bear by the Klamath Mountains in Northern California.

Description

The California black bear shares some common features with other types of bears and black bears in general.

Males of the species grow up to 4 feet (shoulder height) and can weigh around 300 to 350 pounds. However, there are instances where the bears weighed up to 550 pounds.

Female California black bears grow to 3.5 feet and can weigh anywhere between 160 to 350 pounds. And, as with all bear species, the males are about 30 to 40 percent larger than females.

On their feet, they can reach up to 7 feet tall (fully upright on their hind legs). Their coats/fur is usually black although there are instances of a cinnamon-like color in the species.

Diet

These bears are omnivorous and typical hunt at night. Their main source of food includes plants and insects. However, they can and will eat fish, small mammals, and carrion. The California black bear also prefers to live close to drinkable water.

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Reproduction

Female California black bears are able to reproduce between the ages of 3 to 5 years and onwards. Male California black bears are typically able to reproduce from 4 to 6 years of age.

The gestation period lasts 235 days and litters are usually born in late February to early March. Litter size is between one and six cubs, typically two or three.

When born, the cubs usually weigh between 8 and 12 ounces. They are blind, hairless, and can’t walk until they are 4 or 5 weeks old. At 6 months, they weigh from 55 to 65 pounds.

The mother and cubs remain together for 16-17 months. Then, the family members separate, the mother mates again, and the 2-year cycle repeats. The cubs reach reproductive maturity at the age of 3 but continue to grow until they are 5.

Status

In captivity, the California black bear can live up to 35 years. However, in the wild, the average life span is 15 to 20 years. The population of black bears in California is believed to be stable at around 32,000. Their main issue is habitat loss due to human expansion and interference as well as climate change.

Interesting Facts About California Black Bears

  • California black bears are extremely adaptable and show a great variation in habitat types and food.
  • This species also occurs over a range of altitudes, from sea-level to elevations of up to 7000 feet.
  • The average lifespan in the wild is about 20 years.
  • Adults typically grow to 4 feet (shoulder height) and can weigh around 300 to 350 pounds
  • The California black bear’s coat has layers of shaggy fur. These layers keep it warm in cold winter months.
  • The California black bear has relatively short claws that allow them to climb trees. The claws are non-retractable.
  • During winter, California black bears spend the season dormant in their dens.
  • They make their dens in hollow trees or logs, under the root mass of a tree, in rock crevices, or caves.
  • Hibernation typically lasts 3–8 months, depending on the regional climate.
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