Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Black Bear

black bear

Though rarely seen by most New Yorkers, black bears (Ursus americanus) are valued by hunters, photographers, and wildlife watchers. 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 Black Bear Population Facts:

  • Currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting
  • 50-60% inhabit the Adirondack region
  • 30-35% inhabit the Catskill region
  • 10-15% inhabit the central-western region.
  • 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 bear. At the same time, protect yourself and your property by not feeding bears and by reducing bear attractants.

Become a Citizen Scientist for Black Bear Research and Management

iSeeMammals 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 than 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 (leaves DEC website):

  • To access photo galleries of iSeeMammals data as photos are submitted
  • For information on bear ecology and bear management in New York
  • For fun quizzes, contests, and giveaways.

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

If a bear den is located, please call the nearest wildlife office. Also, please do not visit the site or take other people to see the bear den. Female bears give birth in the den. Disturbances by humans may cause the bear to abandon the den and impact the survival of the cubs.

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.
  • 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.

Black Bear Management

Bear management involves bear hunting.

Review the Black Bear Management Plan for New York State.

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.

Watchable Wildlife

watchable wildlife icon

When looking for wildlife in New York visit the Watchable Wildlife webpage for the best locations for finding your favorite mammal, bird, reptile or insect. New York State has millions of acres of State Parks, forests and wildlife management areas that are home to hundreds of wildlife species, and all are open to the public.

Remember when viewing wildlife:

  • Don't feed the wildlife and leave wild baby animals where you find them.
  • Keep quiet, move slowly and be patient. Allow time for animals to enter the area.
What to Watch for

Black bears are the second largest mammal in New York State. (The moose is the largest.) Bears are excellent climbers and can run at speeds up to 25 mph or more. Look for claw marks or scars on trees and bark torn or ripped off. They are usually made to mark the tree or because they are climbing the tree in search of food.

  • Tracks: Look for five toes, claw marks, and a large heel pad. The hind tracks are longer and may reach 7 inches long by 5 inches wide. The front tracks are smaller, but often reach 5 inches long by 5 inches wide.
  • Scat: Bear droppings may be over an inch thick and tubular. A pile of bear scat may be very large. The scat varies with diet and food availability, based on the season.
Watch a clip about black bears and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

More about Black Bear:

  • Important Links
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8883.
  • Contact for this Page
  • Bureau of Wildlife
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4754
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions