Olympic Black Bears

Ursus americanus altifrontalis known as the Olympic black bear is one of the many types of black bears to live in North America.

Olympic black bear - Ursus americanus altifrontalis
Olympic Black Bear

These types of bears share a lot in common with other species in the black bear family (for example, California black bears). Here’s everything you need to know about the Olympic black bears plus some interesting facts.


Olympic black bears live in areas and surrounding parts of the southern half of British Columbia, parts of western Washington and Oregon, as well as northwestern parts of California. They are separated from the California black bear by the Klamath Mountains.

Like other species of bears, the Olympic black bear lives in heavily forested areas and meadows. They also prefer to be near a source of water.


With regard to size, Olympic black bears are average in size. However, they are larger than the neighboring populations of the California black bear and the cinnamon black bear.

These black bear species have broad, high, and protruded foreheads and a tan-colored nose. Their fur/coat is usually black however it can sometimes appear to be a dark brown color.


The Olympic black bear is an omnivorous mammal. However, the majority of its diet is mainly made up of plants. These bears like to feed on berries and nuts. But, they also eat insects, fish, and carrion when available.


Female Olympic black bears are able to reproduce between the ages of 3 to 5 years and onwards. Male Olympic black bears are typically able to reproduce from 4 to 6 years of age. The gestation period lasts 235 days. Litter size is between one and six cubs, typically two or three.

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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.


The population of the Olympic black bears is considered to be fairly stable. However, habitat loss, conflict with humans, hunting and climate change all play a role in their decline. Their lifespan in the wild is around 18 years and they can live to be up to 30 years in captivity.

Interesting Facts About Olympic Black Bears

  • Olympic black bears are extremely adaptable and show a great variation in habitat types and food.
  • The average lifespan in the wild is about 18 years.
  • The Olympic black bear’s coat has layers of shaggy fur. These layers keep it warm in cold winter months.
  • Olympic black bears are usually solitary animals, except during mating season, and when females raise cubs.
  • Olympic black bears also spend time in groups when there is an abundance of food in a specific location.
  • They can communicate through a series of sounds including grunts, clacking teeth, clicking tongues, blowing sounds and moans.
  • Tongue clicking is a common way for mother bears to communicate with their cubs.
  • The Olympic black bear has relatively short claws that allow them to climb trees. The claws are non-retractable.
  • Olympic black bears can easily swim a mile or two and more in freshwater and can run up to 35 miles per hour.
  • Black bears have an excellent sense of smell, excellent hearing and good close-range vision. They see in color.
  • During winter, Olympic 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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