Black Bear Types: A Complete List of All Species

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

The magnificent black bear
The magnificent black bear / Mandy Fuller Photography via Istock

Bears are one of the many creatures that have made several deep forests their home.

At first glance, these animals look harmless, but the reverse is the case.

Although bears are naturally shy and prefer to retire than interact with humans, they are still capable of causing a lot of harm, although a bear attacking a human out of the blue is rare.

Regardless of the species, these animals are much larger than humans and have sharp claws and teeth that can serve as tools to defend themselves if necessary.

There are around eight extant bear species; one of the most populous species is the black bear.

Although the average weight of these bears can reach 600 pounds, the size of these bears varies depending on the subspecies.

Black bear in the wild
Black bear in the wild / rpbirdman via iStock

There are several recognized black bear subspecies scattered across North America and even some parts of Asia.

The most well-known black bear subspecies, their geographic ranges, and distinctive characteristics are all listed in this article.

7. American Black Bear

American Black Bear
American Black Bear | Lynn_Bystrom via Getty Images

With the scientific name Urus americanus, the American black bear is also called baribal.

The American black bear is a medium-sized species in several parts of North America.

The American black bear is also one of just two species out of eight not classified as endangered by the IUCN due to intensive conservation efforts and their adaptability, resulting in a healthy population across much of their remaining natural range.

Despite their name, American black bears are not always black; these bears also range between dark red and brown.

The weights of these bears vary for several reasons, including sex, access to food, habitat, and season.

On average, a male American black bear can weigh as much as 126 and 551 pounds, and females weigh between 90 and 375 pounds.

The largest American black bear ever recorded was found in Canada, weighing over 900 pounds, and was almost eight feet tall.

The American black bear, a medium-sized bear native to North America and found in Yellowstone National Park
The American black bear, a medium-sized bear native to North America and found in Yellowstone National Park / Gerald Corsi via iStock

American black bears are widespread throughout North America.

These animals can survive in almost any region, provided there is a suitable forest habitat.

Despite local populations in some locations being impacted by the destruction of their natural habitats, the American black bear is resilient enough that populations are growing in most places.

Although these bears are commonly classified as carnivores, they are more omnivorous than many other species.

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6. Cinnamon Black Bear

Cinnamon Black Bear
Cinnamon Black Bear | FluidMediaFactory via Getty Images

Native to the central, eastern, and western regions of the United States and Canada, the cinnamon bear (Ursus americanus cinnamomum) is a subspecies of the black bear with a very varied color pattern.

Despite being classified as an official black bear subspecies, many still believe that cinnamon black bears are just American black bears with polymorphism.

As such, the only difference between the cinnamon and the American black bear is the color of their fur.

The easiest way to identify a cinnamon black bear is by the color of its fur.

The fur of the average cinnamon bear ranges between brown and red-brown, the primary reason for its name.

Because the color morphs are normal within the same family, it is not uncommon for mothers and their pups to have different-colored fur.

Cinnamon bear standing in forest observing surroundings
Cinnamon bear standing in forest observing surroundings / John Morrison via iStock

In size, the cinnamon bear is not that different from the American black bear.

Depending on food availability, these bears can weigh as much as 200 to 600 pounds.

Because of variations in regional habitat, their food consists of fruit, foliage, nuts, honey, and occasionally insects and meat.

These bears inhabit several US states and other North American countries in regions with drier climates; this is believed to be the reason for their fur color because black bears found in moist areas are much more likely to be black.

5. Glacier Black Bear

A black bear mother with two glacier cubs
A black bear mother with two glacier cubs | C. Edwards

The glacier bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii), sometimes known as the “blue bear,” is a black bear subspecies native to Southeast Alaska and parts of British Columbia with silver-blue or gray hair.

Despite their unique coloration, there is very little scientific knowledge as to the cause of this coloration, distinguishing them from other black bears.

This subspecies was first discovered in 1895 by William Healey Dall.

Despite the primary means of recognition of these bears being their blue fur, not all individuals have the distinct blue coloration.

Some blue bears have almost white or gray with streaks of light blue and a head completely covered in blue fur.

Because there is not much information on these bears, their exact size remains unknown; it is also unknown if males are significantly larger than females.

However, experts believe these bears are similar in size to American black bears.

A large Glacier bear sighting
A large Glacier bear sighting / National Parks Service via Wikipedia Public Domain

As implied by their name, glacier bears live in areas with substantial glaciers and ice fields preserved by regular cold precipitation.

The habitat of glacier bears depends on the availability of food sources, and they travel between woods, meadows, creeks, and mountains in search of food and refuge.

Like all other black bears, glacier bears are omnivores, and their diets change according to the food sources that are available at different times of the year and in different places.

4. Kermode Black Bear

A black spirit bear
A black spirit bear | Wirestock via Getty Images

Also called the spirit bear, the Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) is a black bear subspecies found in several parts of British Colombia in Canada.

Some Kermode bears have white fur, which is why they are also known as spirit bears.

However, not all Kermode bears have white fur; some are black.

This bear subspecies is named after the former director of the Royal B.C. Museum, Frank Kermode.

Although some Kermode bears have white fur and pigmented eyes, they should not be mistaken for albino bears.

The primary reason for their lack of color is a substitution in their MC1R gene, causing them not to produce adequate melanin.

The gene that makes it possible for Kermode bears to have white fur is recessive.

A white Kermode bear accompanied by its offspring
A white Kermode bear accompanied by its offspring / Maximilian Helm via Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

Because of this, only Kermode bears with two copies of this gene or the progeny of two bears with one copy each are likely to exhibit white fur.

When fully grown, male Kermode bears are larger than females; males average 496 pounds, while females usually reach 298 pounds. 

While not particularly rare, the Kermode bear population has undergone extensive conservation efforts because of the cultural importance of the bear.

The primary threat to this bear subspecies is habitat degradation brought on by oil pipelines.

Except for the fall salmon migrations, when they become obligatory carnivores, Kermode bears are omnivorous most of the year, living primarily off of plants and berries.

3. Louisiana Black Bear

Louisiana black bear
Louisiana black bear | tornado98 via Getty Images

Found primarily in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, the Louisiana black bear is a black bear subspecies that was once considered endangered by the IUCN.

The primary reason this subspecies was considered threatened and endangered was the loss of their primary habitat.

However, the United States Endangered Species Act of 1992 helped protect these bears from uncontrolled poaching.

The Louisiana black bear is large and bulky, with long black fur and a short tail.

At first glance, this subspecies might not seem different from the American black bear, but they have longer skulls.

Although the weight of this subspecies varies, mature males weigh an average of 300 to 400 pounds, though they can weigh more than 500 pounds, while adult females weigh an average of 120 to 200 pounds.

A roaming Louisiana Black Bear in the woods
A roaming Louisiana Black Bear in the woods / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikipedia Public Domain

These bears, which are mainly found in the wooded marshes of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, have been spotted in practically every parish in Louisiana.

Also, its range has grown to include highland habitats, such as pine forests west and east of the Mississippi River.

Although Louisiana black bears are classified as carnivores, these bears are more opportunistic feeders and will consume anything available.

2. Mexican Black Bear

Mexican black bear
Mexican black bear | Lillie Cogswell via Bear Conservation

The Mexican black bear (Ursus americanus eremicus) is a subspecies of black bear found in northern and central Mexico.

Despite these bears belonging to several parts of Mexico, some of their population extends into Texas.

Like some other black bear subspecies, Mexican black bears are affected by human activities, especially regarding their habitats.

The primary difference between Mexican and American black bears is that the Mexican subspecies have shorter fur and a more rounded head.

This subspecies is also medium-sized.

Adult males weigh between 198 and 396 pounds, while females weigh between 99 and 242 pounds.

New Mexico Black Bear
New Mexico Black Bear / Jim Martin via Wikipedia Public Domain

Another way to tell them apart is by the distinctive white patch on their chest.

The Mexican black bear inhabits various habitats, including mountainous regions, forests, and deserts.

These bears are primarily nocturnal and solitary, except during breeding season.

Because of their propensity for climbing, they can scale trees to avoid predators or seek food.

Being an omnivore, the Mexican black bear consumes a variety of plant and animal matter, and their diet includes berries, nuts, acorns, insects, and small mammals.

Due to habitat degradation and killing, these bears are a threatened species.

Further protection for the species comes from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

1. Asian Black Bear

Asian Black Bear
Asian Black Bear | OSTILL via Getty Images

Also known as the moon bear, the white-chested bear, or the Asiatic black bear, the Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) is a black bear subspecies endemic to several parts of Asia.

The IUCN has designated these bears as “Vulnerable” due to a population fall of at least 30% over time.

The Asian black bear is more similar in build to brown bears, only smaller and lighter.

The Asian black bear normally has a coat color of black or dark brown, and its chest has a unique white or yellowish V-shaped mark.

It features a round head, small, rounded ears, and a stocky, muscular body.

Adult males have an average weight of 298 pounds, but their weight usually falls between 130 and 440 pounds.

On the other hand, females weigh between 88 and 310 pounds.

Asian black bear with a distinctive white crescent mark on its chest
Asian black bear with a distinctive white crescent mark on its chest / Guérin Nicolas via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Largely arboreal, these bears can be found in deciduous forests, and in the summer, they can be found as high up as over 11,000 feet.

They are also omnivores, but their diet depends on their location.

Asiatic black bears tend to live alone and defend their territory, while they occasionally form small family groups with a mother and her cubs.

These bears spend the day sleeping in trees or caves and are most active at night.

Like many bear species, the Asian black bear is threatened by habitat loss, hunting, and poaching.


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