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Black Bear

Ursus americanus

black bear

Summer 2012

A young black bear has been spotted in the forests around Saint John's Abbey and University this summer. Black bears are common throughout northern Minnesota, but are less commonly seen in this area.





About black bears

The Black bear is the only species of bear living in Minnesota. They generally live in forested areas and are most often found in the northern third of the state. Read more about Black bears on the MN Department of Natural Resources website.


  • Black bears live primarily in forested areas.
  • They usually try to avoid people, but will sometimes enter cities, towns, campgrounds, or agricultural areas in search of food.
  • There are about 20,000 Black bears in Minnesota.
  • A large black or brown mammal with small eyes, stout legs, and a short tail.
  • Bears have decent eyesight and hearing, and have an exceptionally good sense of smell.
  • Adult bears can be 5-6 feet long and can weigh from 150-500 pounds, depending on age and gender (females are generally smaller).


  • Black bears eat a variety of green vegetation in the spring, enjoy ants and ant pupae in early summer, and a variety of berries and nuts in later summer and fall.
  • Bears use their keen sense of smell and mental maps of the landscape to locate food sources, which are constantly changing with the season.


  • Black bears mate during May-July, with cubs usually born in January. Litters are most often 3 cubs.
  • Bears hibernate in their dens during winter, for as long as 6-7 months. They do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate, but recycle body wastes and awake in spring with little loss of muscle mass or strength. Newborn cubs do not hibernate, but receive all the nourishment they need from their hibernating mother.
  • A bear will attempt to eat anything that resembles food in look, smell, or taste. When natural foods are scarce, bears search actively for anything to eat.

Living with bears

    They will associate people with food and may become a problem.
    Most bears fear people and will leave when they see you.
    If a bear woofs, snaps its jaws, slaps the ground or vegetation, or bluff charges, you are too close! Back away slowly.
    Make loud noises or throw something to scare it away. Always allow the bear an escape route.
    Leave it alone and exit the area! The bear will go away when it feels safe.

Thanks to the MN DNR for information about living with bears.