In Maine, black bears are found almost statewide. They’re most common in the east and north and rarely live in the southern and central coastal areas.
They’re the smallest of the three species of bears that live in North America (the black, the brown, and the polar bear).
Their natural habitat is the forests from northern Mexico to the tree line edge in Canada and Alaska. When they lack natural food, particularly in spring or summer, black bears may venture into backyards and areas with easy access to food like grills, garbage cans, etc.
This article explores the types of bears found in Maine and their impact on the local population.
Are There Black Bears in Maine?
Black bears are very common in Maine. Maine is home to the largest population of black bears anywhere in the united states. Estimates put their number between 24,000 and 36,000.
Read More: Black Bears vs Grizzly Bears
They live throughout the state, except in the south coastal region. This state doesn’t just have the largest population of black bears of any state in the east, but it also has one of the largest populations within the lower 48 states.
The management of the black bear population in Maine is achieved with regulated hunting and trapping.
Nonetheless, black bears remain a major component in the ecosystem of the state and are highly valued by society, including hunters and non-hunters.
This interesting video shows a black bear in the forests of Maine, back-scratching on a tree:
Why Is Maine a Suitable Habitat for Black Bears?
Maine is believed to be a suitable habitat for black bears because of the greater interspersion of vegetation types that provide them with seasonal foods.
In fact, bear habitat in Maine has noticed an increase in the past century because of farmland reverting to forestland, according to the Wild Life Society.
According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine has 69,050 km2 of bear habitat, comprised of second-growth conifer-deciduous forest which provides a lot of the foods this bear eats including fruits, nuts, berries, and carrion.
Moreover, the forests of Maine are a necessity for black bears for more than food, but also for protection. Black bears are adaptable to human presence and can actually survive in close proximity to suburban areas where there’s escape cover.
The undisturbed lands of Maine with mature spruce-fir are perfect for this species to roam free. Black bears are excellent runners with a speed of 25 mph and their climbing capacity is exceptional.
Related Article: Are there Bears on Long Island?
Is there Conflict between Black Bears & Humans in Maine?
There has been human-bear conflict in Maine’s history, but there have been no recorded fatalities. Since people in Maine grow up around bears, they understand well the non-aggressive nature of black bears and have learned how to avoid them.
Conflicts between humans and bears are reported yearly in Maine, but they can be averted by proper environmental etiquette and education of the residents.
Due to the higher interest in human food when lacking their natural one, Maine bears are increasingly causing conflict. In fact, Maine issued a request for proposals in 2019 to estimate the role that human food might have played in the increase of bear population.
The consumption of human food may influence the black bears’ population and have a positive influence on litter size and survival of cubs. Still, this also puts humans at a higher risk of bear conflict.
Black bears in Maine are known to rummage through dumpsters, especially when they’re low on natural foods in spring and summer.
Black bears will run off if startled, which is lucky since they can run at speeds of up to 30mph.
This poses a threat to both bears and humans because when bears taste human food once, they’ll keep coming back.
Unfortunately, various factors like climate change and urbanization are influencing the presence of bears in urban areas and conflicts between humans and bears. The Maine government is well aware of these problems but emphasizes that the solution is very complex.
This video shows a bear rummaging through a dumpster in Maine, looking for food:
How to Avoid Bears in Maine
It’s possible to reduce the risk of bear conflict in Maine by behaving in an environmentally responsible way and using some common sense. Unlike Polar Bears, black bears are not as dangerous, however, they are still wild animals and it’s important to respect them. They have been around for a lot longer than humans have.
Disclaimer: This is information for entertainment and educational purposes only. Do not approach a wild animal and keep your distance. Only professionals should handle wild animals. Seek professional help immediately if you have been bitten or otherwise harmed. Consult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.
Here are some methods that may be useful in dealing with black bears:
- Keeping grills indoors when they’re not being used
- Avoiding hanging birdfeeders from spring through summer outside
- Feeding pets inside
- Putting out waste when it’s the day of pickup
- Storing compost pile indoors
- Harvesting produce when it’s ripe & collecting the dropped ones
- Placing electric fences & using bear-proof garbage cans
- Government measures like education of the residents
Are There Grizzly or Polar Bears in Maine?
There aren’t any grizzly or polar bears in Maine. Black bears are the only species of bears that live in Maine.
Although there have been claims by people that they’ve seen a grizzly with brown fur, this isn’t a grizzly. It’s a black bear that’s in a brown phase that’s rarely seen in the East and occasionally possible in Maine.
According to bear biologist Randy Cross, around one in 5000 bears in Maine would have this brownish color. Grizzlies live in Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington, western Canada, and maybe southern Colorado.
Polar bears are also never seen in Maine as they live in a totally different habitat, that is, the Arctic, on ice-covered waters. They need sea ice for their primary food source- seals.
According to National Geographic, polar bears can be seen in Canada, Russia, Norway, Alaska, and Greenland.
The great wilderness of Maine is the home to the black bear: a relatively shy bear that acts aggressively when it’s the last resort. A proud symbol of Maine and deeply embedded into its culture, the black bear is praised for its swimming, running, and climbing skills.
But, because of their potent sense of smell and food scarcity in spring and summer, they may enter the urban areas in search of food. Still, despite the noted human-bear conflicts in Maine, none of them was fatal.
Despite this, it’s pivotal for Maine residents to be educated on how to protect themselves from black bear conflict and to minimize their risk of black bears rummaging their yards.
Maine’s forests are the home to this bear species only and there aren’t any others.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.