The black bear is New York's second largest land mammal; only the moose is larger. An average adult male weighs about 300 pounds while females average about 170 pounds. The largest bear reported from New York weighed approximately 750 pounds. Black bears are omnivorous, eating grasses, berries, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, grubs, and carrion, as well as human sources of food like corn, honey, bird seed, trash, and pet food when available.
Although the color of black bears actually varies widely in other parts of North America, over 99.9% of the black bears in New York are jet black in color with a brown muzzle.
Once thought to inhabit only large forests, over the past two decades, black bears have been expanding their range throughout New York and can now be found in a variety of habitats including developed areas. As recently as the mid-1990s, black bears occupied three relatively distinct ranges: Adirondack, Catskill, and Allegany. The areas open to bear hunting (see Bear Hunting Seasons) show the approximate location of these ranges. Currently, bears occupy habitat across the Southern Tier and it is now more appropriate to refer to Northern and Southern Bear Ranges. New York's 6,000-7,000 black bears are great travelers and occasionally pass through virtually every upstate county of our state.
The Adirondack region in the Northern Bear Range is home to the largest black bear population in New York State (4,000 to 5,000 bears) and the Catskill region in the Southern Bear Range contains the second largest population (1,500 to 2,000). The Allegany portion of the Southern Bear Range has a smaller but growing population of bears (300-500). If you live or recreate in these areas of New York you may expect at some time to see, or in some other manner encounter, a black bear. One of the more common encounters occurs when bears obtain food from human sources.
Feeding of Black Bears is Prohibited in New York
DEC has adopted a rule prohibiting the deliberate and intentional feeding of black bears. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears also is unlawful after a written warning has been issued by the department. For details, read the Black Bear Feeding Regulations and the Summary of Public Comment (PDF)(347 kB).
Learn More about Living With New York Black Bears
The recently produced video, "Living with New York Black Bears" explores the history of black bears, the challenges that face New York bear biologists, and how landowners can responsibly and safely share their neighborhood with bears. The video is available at most local libraries, high school and college libraries throughout the State, or at your local DEC regional wildlife office.
Facts About Bear Behavior
Bears are Curious - They spend a great deal of time exploring for food, and this can bring them close to humans.
Bears are Intelligent - Bears learn from experience. If an activity results in food, they will repeat that activity. If an encounter with a human is negative, they learn to avoid humans. Also if an encounter with a human doesn't result in a reward (food), they will not have any reason to have contact with humans.
Feeding Bears Creates "Bad" Bears - When bears learn to obtain food from humans, they can become bold and aggressive.
Feeding Bears is Bad for Bears - Bear's natural foraging habits and behavior can be changed. Usually solitary, bears can be concentrated in areas causing stress, injuries from physical conflicts, and the spread of diseases. Often when feeding on garbage or camper's supplies bears will eat unhealthy materials such as soap, shaving cream, insect repellant, food packaging, etc.
Never deliberately feed bears and avoid unintentionally feeding bears. If you avoid attracting and rewarding bears, you, your property and the bears will all benefit.
Use the links to the right to obtain more detailed information on how to avoid negative bear encounters.
Problems with Black Bears
Typically these negative encounters fall into one of the following categories:
- Bears raiding bird feeders at residences and second homes;
- Bears raiding garbage at residences, second homes and restaurants;
- Bears taking improperly stored food from campers at campgrounds; or
- Bears taking improperly stored food from back country campers.
All of these situations can be avoided through simple changes in human behavior. The the links to the right provide information about black bears - so that you may better understand their behavior; and advice about proper practices - so that you can avoid negative interactions with black bears.
Black bears are an important and natural component of New York's ecosystem. Whether you live or recreate in the bear country, please help maintain and protect the bears, and at the same time protect yourself and your property.
NYSDEC Regulation requires the use of bear-resistant canisters by overnight users in the eastern high peaks wilderness between April 1 and November 30.
NYSDEC encourages campers to use bear resistant canisters throughout the Adirondack and Catskill backcountry.
Subscribe to New York Big Game
Join New York Big Game to periodically receive information about bear and deer biology, management, research, regulations and hunting in New York State.
To subscribe, you need to first Subscribe to GovDelivery. Enter your email, and the information requested on the "New Subscriber" page.
On the "Quick Subscribe" page you will see all the topics that you can receive email updates on from DEC. Under the "Outdoor Recreational and Commercial Activities" category, check the box next to hunting and trapping.
More about Black Bear:
- Watchable Wildlife: Black Bear - A description of the appearance, food preferences, signs of, and habitat of the black bear and the best places to view black bears in New York.
- Black Bear Management - Adaptive Impact Management and citizen participation are key aspects of black bear management in New York.
- Black Bears in New Yorks Back Country - Information on black bears and how to avoid problems with them when hiking and camping in the backcountry areas of New York State (such as the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains)
- Bear Resistant Canisters - What are bear resistant canisters? How and why are they used?
- Black Bears, Campers and DEC Campgrounds - Rules & tips for campers and DEC policies and procedures to prevent nuisance black bears in DEC campgrounds
- High Peaks Black Bear Study - DEC research on black bears and their interactions with campers in the High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park