Black Bears

Scientific Name:   Ursus americanus

When is the best time to view black bears in Monterey County and where is the best viewing?

Black bears have been moving and increasing their range in California including into Monterey County. However, there are not many bears known to live in Monterey County and sightings are rare, as bears do not often leave the forests.  The most recent sighting occurred in June 2013 when a black bear was spotted in Laguna Grande Park in Seaside, California.


About Black Bears

Despite their name, black bears can be brown, tan, gray, or black. Black bears are plantigrade meaning they walk flat-footed like humans, which makes their claws show up in their footprints. Their claws are short and non-retractable making them excellent tree climbers. 

Bears are very adaptable and solitary, except for mothers and cubs. Black bears spend the winter in their den but do not hibernate. They will leave the den occasionally if they do not have cubs.

Spring and summer months are when black bears are roaming diverse habitats in search of food in order to prepare for winter. Black bears prefer to hunt just before sunrise and just after sunset. Humans who come across a black bear should remain at least 50 yards from the bear(s). This is a respectful distance and is recommended for safety. If a bear intentionally comes closer, humans should raise their arms and make loud noises to scare the bear away.


Black Bear Fun Facts

  • The largest black bear found in Yosemite weighed 690 pounds
  • Fur may be black, brown, tan or gray

  • The only bear currently living in California

  • Black bear populations in California increased from 10,000–15,000 in 1982 to 25,000–30,000 in 2012

  • Mother black bears stay with her cubs for about two years

  • As winter approaches, can spend up to 20 hours a day foraging for food

  • Can run as fast as 35 mph

  • Black bears are great swimmers

Habitat: Live in both coniferous and deciduous forests

Length: 4 – 7 feet

Weight: Males weigh 150-300 pounds, average 250 pounds; Females rarely exceed 200 pounds

Diet: grasses, roots, berries, insects, fish, and mammals (anything organic)

Lifespan: Average 10 years, but can live up to at least 30 years

Reproduction: Black bears mate during the summer. Female bears give birth in the middle of winter to 1–6 cubs, but two cubs or twins are common. Gestation is 63–70 days.