American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

October 2023
Written By: 
Grand Strand Magazine Staff
Photographs by: 
courtesy of shutterstock

Black bears are North America's most familiar and common bears. They typically live in forests but are also found in mountains and swamps. In South Carolina, there are two resident populations of black bears—one in the mountains and upper piedmont and one in the coastal plain. Home range for bears must include den sites, food, water and cover for adults and young.  Most have a light brown snout and some sport a white patch on their chest.

- Black bears are opportunistic omnivores and will feed on whatever is readily available. Their natural diet consists of berries, nuts and plant matter (over 80 percent) as well as insects and meat (less than 20 percent).

- Don't be fooled by their cute, waddling walk; black bears can move quickly when necessary. They can execute short and powerful bursts of speed on flat land, uphill, or downhill in search of prey or to outrun danger, reaching 25-30 miles per 

- They have a broad head with longish, rounded ears set well back on the head. The rump of a black bear is higher than the front shoulders, and they lack the prominent shoulder hump of the Grizzly and Brown bears.

- From September through the end of fall, black bears—the only bear type that roams the Palmetto State — eat as much as possible to prepare for winter hibernation. The process is called hyperphagia.

- Black bears have an incredible sense of smell. They are excellent climbers and good swimmers. Their strong claws are built for climbing, and they can run up a tree with incredible speed. Female bears teach their cubs to climb at a young age, and often send them up a tree to escape from danger.