The American Black Bear ranges throughout the forested areas of the United States and Canada. At least three quarters of their diet consists of vegetable matter, especially fruit, berries, nuts, and roots. The diet also includes insects, fish, rodents and carrion. See our bears in the Wildlife Habitats at Grandfather Mountain:
- Yonahlossee (aka Yonnie) was born at Bear Country U.S.A. in South Dakota. On April 13, 1999 at approximately three months of age, Yonnie and her adopted brother Kodiak flew to Charlotte, NC where they were met by their new keepers. From the moment she was acquired it was obvious that she would be extremely high maintenance and very feisty. She was named after the Cherokee word, which means trail of the black bear. Even as an adult, Yonnie is still very high maintenance and has a lot of attitude. She loves hanging out with Kodiak, whining loudly at her keepers and tree lounging. She has been known to pick on the other bears and then hide behind Kodiak for protection when they come after her.
- Smokey came to Grandfather Mountain on April 12, 2001 at approximately 10 weeks of age from Bear Country U.S.A in South Dakota. Smokey was hand-raised by the habitat staff. She was very tiny and adorable as could be but also possessed a serious temper! If a keeper was lax in their bottle holding duty, Smokey was quick to let them know how she felt with some nasty bites and scratches. Smokey is very quiet and does not like to be the center of attention. She loves lounging in sun beams, harassing her neighbors the cougars and hanging out with Flower.
- Carolina was born at Bear Country U.S.A. in South Dakota. On April 14, 1997, at approximately 10 weeks of age, Carolina and her adopted sister, Dakota, flew to Charlotte, N.C., where they were met by their new keepers from Grandfather Mountain. Carolina was hand-raised and lived in the habitat office until she was big enough to live outside in one of the bear habitats. Carolina is very calm and has an extremely sweet nature. The keepers often call her “our piggy bear” or “roly poly,” due to her love of food. She is missing the end of one of her ears, which only enhances the adorable looks she gives. She is a loving, attentive and very protective mother. If anything ever needs care, Carolina is the first to come running, making her concerned motherly “grunts” the whole way.
- Kodiak (aka Kody) came to Grandfather Mountain on April 13, 1999, from Bear Country U.S.A in South Dakota. We were very excited to get him, because he is a cinnamon-colored black bear! When he arrived, he was so young and tiny — weighing only eight pounds — that he had not learned how to crawl forward yet. Soon, though, he was running around, climbing trees and now, being our only male, is the largest bear. Kody is laid back and extremely sure of himself. He hasn’t always been this way, though. For a long time, Kody was shy and timid. He finally realized that he was 150 pounds larger than anyone else and didn’t have anything to be afraid of. Kody loves playing in the pond, snuggling with his girls, rolling peanut butter balls and lounging on rocks. Kody has fathered 10 cubs.
- Flower came to Grandfather Mountain on April 12, 2001 at approximately 10 weeks of age from Bear Country U.S.A in South Dakota. Flower was hand-raised by the habitat staff. At only 10 feisty pounds, she was quite a handful and left several marks on her keepers to remember her by! She got her name because, as a cub, she looked like the skunk named Flower in “Bambi.” Flower is very stubborn and still feisty even as an adult. She loves “belly sliding,” sticking out her tongue and teasing Kodiak.
Fanny May arrived at Grandfather Mountain in the spring of 2021 after the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission approached the nonprofit nature preserve about a bear that needed placement. She is a very youthful and exuberant bear. As the mountain’s youngest of the six bears in the bear habitat, Fanny has shown a fascination for the toys and enrichments that the keepers share with her. She can often be found playing with these enrichments in her enclosure and doing what the keepers refer to as “bear yoga,” or the interesting positions the bears get in by stretching their legs out or sticking their paws up in the air. Read more about her.
The black bear weighs between 200 and 600 pounds, with females being smaller than males. It measures five to six feet from head to tail and stands three feet at the shoulder. The lumbering walk of the black bear can be deceptive because it can run 35 miles per hour when the need arises. The most common color phases are black, chocolate brown, and cinnamon brown. In the Grandfather Mountain animal habitats, Kodiak the Bear is an example of the rare cinnamon-colored variety.
Like other bears that sleep through the winter, the black bear becomes fat with the approach of cold weather, ceases eating, and goes into a den in a protected location to sleep for the winter. In the southern regions, bears will sometimes venture outside during warmer weather. During hibernation their body temperature drops from 100 degrees to 88-93 degrees. Their heart beat will slow to as few as eight beats per minute, they will breathe once every 45 seconds, and their metabolic rate is cut in half.
Bears are unique in that they can sleep for six to seven months without eating or drinking, sometimes without urinating or defecating, and yet they remain in a healthy state. It is hoped that research into the hibernation of bears will lead to advances in human medicine, particularly in the areas of kidney disease, cholesterol gall stones and hardening of the arteries.
Bears mate during a brief period in June and early July, but the fertilized egg does not implant right away. If the mother bear has stored up enough energy for the winter and is healthy in late autumn, the egg will implant and begin to grow. Cubs are born in January and February while the mothers are in hibernation. Mother bears deliver two to five cubs per litter. They usually give birth every other year, but sometimes wait three to four years between litters. At birth the cubs weigh six to eight ounces and are naked and blind. They are usually weaned at six to eight months but will stay with their mothers until the following spring.
Black bears live about 25 to 30 years in captivity. Their life expectancy in the wild is much shorter, usually three to five years, because they are classified as a game species.
Looking for a special gift? Adopt one of our Bears.