Black Bears: Just the Bear Facts

Yosemite black bear

Yosemite is home to an average of 300 to 500 black bears in its 750,000 acres. Despite their name, about 95% of bears in the Sierra Nevada are not black but rather various shades and blends of blonde, auburn, and brown. Black bears with black fur are more common in the Pacific Northwest and the eastern United States. Grizzly bears are not found in California though they did originally inhabit the area before settlers exterminated them leaving only the less threatening black bear to roam. Though black bears are more docile than their grizzly counterparts, they can still be aggressive, especially when in search of food or protecting their cubs. Remember, these are wild animals, never approach them.

Yosemite bears eat mainly a vegetarian diet that consists of grasses, herbs, berries and nuts. Manzanita berries & acorns are some favorites in Yosemite. Other sources of food include ants, termites, yellow jackets, bees and various insect larvae they pull out of logs or from the ground. It is less common for black bears to eat meat but when in dire need of food they will kill small deer and consume animal remains left by other predators. Yosemite's bears, like other black bears are active both day and night for most of the year. They do hibernate in the winter though their sleep is not very deep - and contrary to popular belief - they do leave the den periodically. Cubs are generally born during this period of hibernation and stay with their mother for at least a year.

Male black bears typically weigh 300 to 350 pounds, whereas the smaller female bear ranges 200 to 250 pounds. Their weights will vary throughout the seasons. The biggest Yosemite bear to date weighed 690 pounds! Standing up on its hind feet, a black bear can be up to 7 feet tall. When they do stand, it is usually to get a better scent or to look at something.

The average lifespan for Yosemite 's black bears is 18 years. Main causes of death are vehicle accidents, disease, old age, and being put down when becoming too habituated and aggressive towards human food. Please be aware and properly store your food, this will save Yosemite's bears lives.