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Black Bear

black bear

Though rarely seen by most New Yorkers, black bears (Ursus americanus) are valued by hunters, photographers, and wildlife watchers, and many people enjoy just knowing that bears are present in New York. For many, black bears symbolize wilderness and wildness, but increasingly, bears can be found in semi-rural environments, agricultural areas, and occasionally in urban centers.

New York's black bear population is currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting, with roughly 50-60% of the bears inhabiting the Adirondack region, about 30-35% in the Catskill region, and about 10-15% in the central-western region. In addition, bears are now well established in many other areas, including the Tug Hill, Hudson Valley, and across the Southern Tier. Transient bears are routinely encountered throughout the Lake Ontario Plains, Mohawk Valley, and St. Lawrence Valley. With the exception of Tug Hill, these other areas include a greater proportion of agriculture or have higher human densities, making them less suitable for bears due to the higher likelihood of human-bear conflicts.

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 by not feeding bears and by reducing bear attractants.

Review the Black Bear Management Plan for New York State.

Become a Citizen Scientist for Black Bear Research and Management

I See Mammals Logo

iSeeMammals is a new citizen science project of the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University and DEC. It seeks to collect data to help researchers and DEC biologists study the distribution and size of the black bear population in New York. iSeeMammals will help researchers collect data over more areas that what researchers could cover in the field.

Participation is open to all. iSeeMammals collects information about where and when users identify bears or bear signs (scat, tracks, hair, markings) while on hikes or on their personal trail cameras. Photographs of observations, repeat hikes, and trail cameras set up for multiple months are strongly encouraged. An app for data collection and submission is available for free download in Apple and Android stores.

Visit iSeeMammals website to learn more about the project (link leaves DEC's website), to access photo galleries of iSeeMammals data as photos are submitted; for information on bear ecology and bear management in New York; and for fun quizzes, contests, and giveaways.

Training workshops and seminars may be available; inquire via the contact form (link leaves DEC's website) at the iSeeMammals Website.

map of bear distribution in New York
Black Bear distribution in New York.
Primary range refers to areas where breeding bears were known to
occur. Secondary range includes areas with routine bear sightings.
Transient and dispersing bears may be found in all of upstate New
York, including areas generally considered unoccupied by bears.

Black Bear Facts

  • Black bears are large - They have erect, rounded ears; a long, narrow, brown muzzle; and a short tail. An average adult male weighs about 300 pounds while females average about 170 pounds.
  • Black bears can remain dormant for up to 5 months in winter.
  • Bears eat nearly anything - They 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.
  • 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.
  • Bear management involves bear hunting.
  • Feeding bears creates human-bear conflicts - When bears learn to obtain food from humans, they can become bold and aggressive. Deliberate and intentional feeding of bears is illegal in New York (leaves DEC website).
  • Feeding bears is bad for bears - Bears' 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.

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:

  • Black Bear Management - Adaptive Impact Management and citizen participation are key aspects of black bear management in New York.
  • Reducing Human-Bear Conflicts - Information about techniques to prevent attracting bears around your home and while camping.
  • Black Bear Educational Resources - Find educational resources about black bears for teachers and students including curriculum materials for K-8 teachers.
  • 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.
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