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Are Black Bears Endangered?

A black bear cub
A black bear cub

Black bears are considered to be the least concern according to IUCN. At the moment, they are not considered to be endangered, but that might change in the future thanks to natural changes and environmental changes.

It’s estimated that around 600,000 black bears live in North America, which is their habitat. They’re not particularly threatened by humans and poaching since in some states, black bear hunting is prohibited. Black bear hunting is only legal in 27 states of the United States, and even there it is seen as cruel and unsporting.

Some black bear subspecies, such as the Louisiana black bear, are considered to be threatened and are thus protected by law.

What are the Threats to Black Bears?

Black Bear Cubs
Black Bear Cubs

Black bears might be in trouble because of loss of habitat, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. Other threats to black bears include other bears and predators, droughts, starvation, and in particular, fires.

Black bears are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss, but luckily, in North America, there is not a lot of deforestation that would threaten them. Instead, spreading industrial plants and building homes and houses for humans are the biggest threats for black bears in North America.

Other potential problems for black bears in the future include natural and environmental changes. Droughts, fires, starvation, and infections are more likely to harm black bears in the future rather than hunting. A good example of this was the 2021 California fires where hundreds of black bears became endangered and some of them died.

Black Bear eating Elderberries

Sometimes, black bears are endangered by other apex predators such as other bears, as well as other predators. Mountain lions are particularly known for sometimes hunting black bears. But the good thing for black bears is that they can easily protect themselves, so they’re rarely threatened seriously.

In some parts of America, black bears are seen as vermin and are thus actively hunted or chased away from human settlements. They’re known for attacks on cattle and humans, as well as for their constant involvement in human territories where they feed on human leftovers and cause damage to property.

Black bears are unlikely to be threatened in the near future, but that may as well change a few decades down the line. The main potential reasons include climate change and habitat loss due to human intervention. 

Related Article: Are there Bears in England?

Are Black Bears Protected?

Fuzzy black bear

Black bears are protected by law in many states of the United States, and black bear hunting is only legal in 27 states across the United States. In some states such as Louisiana, black bears are seen as endangered and are protected by law because of that.

The United States has clear and strict laws when it comes to black bear hunting. Unlike in many other parts of the world, illegal hunting is prosecuted by the law and often results in punishment. The black bear is protected by law in the majority of the United States counties and states.

In 27 states, black bear hunting is allowed – in some, the hunting might only be allowed with a specific permit from the authorities. In the majority of states, though, black bear hunting is seen as cruel and unsporting, even if it is allowed. That’s why hunters are discouraged from actively hunting bears.

In some states such as Florida, even feeding black bears is prohibited. The reason for this is that black bears often wander into human territory if they are encouraged by feeding, so it is prohibited by law. 

Black bears are also protected in Louisiana, where they have been seen as endangered under the US endangered species act. Because of the dwindling numbers of black bears in 1992, they became protected in this state by law. However, this law was rescinded in 2016 when black bear populations increased significantly thanks to conservation efforts.

Related Article: Are Bears Afraid of Fire?

How Rare are Black Bears?

Black bear in meadow

Black bears are typical only for North America, as they are not found in other parts of the world. According to some estimates, there are around 600,000 black bears in North America – 300,000 of them are in the United States.

Black bears are only found in North America. They typically live in forested areas and mountains where they can wander around and explore their territory. They like to live in larger territories since they prefer to roam around a lot in search of food and other hunting opportunities.

Black bears are also omnivores, so they’re likely to be found in a variety of different habitats. They can eat fruits, meat, fish, and other types of foods found in nature. They might even wander into towns and cities where they will eat human leftovers, which is why they might be considered vermin in some areas.

The number estimates as to how many black bears there are will vary; some reports say there are up to 600,000 black bears in North America, while others will report higher numbers of up to 800,000 individuals. These numbers have been steady for decades since the bear populations don’t naturally decline.

Some black bear subspecies, such as the Louisiana black bear or the California black bear only have several thousands of bears. There are around 4,000 Louisiana black bears, so that is one reason why these bears have become endangered in recent decades. These low numbers have resulted in concerted reforestation efforts by the authorities.

Read Also: Bears vs Cougar

Conservation Status Comparison with Other Bears

Type of BearIUCN Conservation StatusRead More
Grizzly BearsLeast ConcernAre Grizzly Bears Endangered?
Giant PandasVulnerableAre Giant Pandas Endangered?
Sun BearsVulnerableAre Sun Bears Endangered?
Black BearsLeast ConcernThis Article.
Polar BearsVulnerableAre Polar Bears Endangered?

Go Deeper: Are Bears Endangered?

Conclusion

Black bears aren’t considered to be endangered. According to IUCN, they are considered to be the least concern since there are large numbers of black bears still present in North America.

Some estimates say that there are around 600,000 up to 800,000 black bears in North America. Some black bear subspecies might be considered to be endangered, but there are organized efforts to stop the deterioration of life quality for black bears where they are considered to be endangered.

Overall, black bears are protected by law in many states and counties, so illegal hunting is not very common.

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