Ontario Black Bear Biology

bear Black bear colour phases include cinnamon and other shades of brown. The muzzle can be black, dark brown, or light brown, and frequently there’s a white V on the chest.

Black bears are strong boned with heavy muscles. Adult males weigh from 250 to 600 pounds (114 to 272 kg). Females weigh from 100 to 400 pounds (45 to 181 kg). Full skeletal growth comes at about five years of age for females and seven to eight years for males. The weight of both sexes may continue to increase for another three to four years. Among the most difficult of all North American game to sex in the wild, the black bear, with its generally stocky body, long hair, and uniform colouration, can be identified using the following guidelines.

  • Males have heavily muscled necks, shoulders, and forelimbs, and a broad snout. The well-developed muscle masses on top of the male’s head make the ears appear small, rounded, and set far apart. In a side view, the penis can often be seen in front of the thigh.

  • Females are more slightly built than males, with smaller necks and frames. They have a long, thin snout, and their ears appear to be large because the muscle masses on top of the head are not well developed. In a rear view, hairs from the vulva can often be seen between the thighs.

The eyes of a black bear appear small for the size of the head. Eyesight is reportedly comparable to that of a human, with colour vision and detailed near vision. Hearing and sense of smell are highly developed; bears can detect food from up to 1 mile (1.6 km) away.

Black bears are omnivores. They eat a variety of green vegetation, berries, insects, and nuts. Bears have been known to kill moose and deer, especially young animals. Their canine teeth are large and accompanied by flattened molars designed primarily for crushing. In late fall, black bears seek dens (where they are protected by regulation) and hibernate until spring. Mating occurs from mid-June to early August. At most, females can reproduce once every two years. Cubs are born between late December and early February while the mother is still denned. Litters range from one to four cubs. Cubs stay with their mother until they are 16 to 17 months of age, at which time she mates again.


The largest Ontario black bear submitted for scoring to the Foundation for the Recognition of Ontario Wildlife was taken in Thunder Bay District by a bow hunter in 1990. It scored 21-12/16 points.