Over one-third of the 1,586 “black” bears observed in the North Cascades ranged from nearly white to dark brown. Regardless their color, black bears lack grizzly bears’ prominent shoulder hump and long, “rototiller” front claws. With short, curved claws like grappling hooks and powerful muscles in their rears and hind legs, black bears are agile tree climbers.
When not part of a family group, black bears are usually solitary. Where food is abundant, several bears may feed near each other. In such settings, social “etiquette” dictates that dominant bears (large adult males and some adult females) feed in the most food-abundant areas. Younger bears feed at safe distances from their elders.
Black bears are omnivores, eating berries, roots, grasses, other plant matter, insects, small mammals, carrion, and fish.
Females reach sexual maturity at 5 to 9 years of age. Mating usually takes place in July. Pairs may come together for a few hours or several days, copulating many times. Cubs are born in their mother's winter den in January or February. Cubs generally remain with their mother for a year and a half before venturing out on their own.
Like people, bears are curious, intelligent, and potentially dangerous. But many bears die each year because people are afraid of them, and/or have not learned how to share habitat with them. By respecting bears and learning proper behavior in bear habitat, people can learn to live and recreate safely among bears.
In the North Cascades you are sharing a place which is home to bears. Most people who see a bear in the wild consider it the highlight of their trip. The presence of these majestic creatures is a reminder of how privileged we are to share some of the country's dwindling wilderness. Proper food storage is essential and required (by law) for the health and safety of humans and animals in North Cascades National Park ServiceComplex.
Please report all bear sightings to a park ranger. Note the location of the sighting, length of observation, distance from the bear, and description of the bear and its activity or behavior.
Have you seen a bear in the North Cascades? Email to report bear encounters to park biologists.