Black Bear

Black bear in tree
Black Bear sniffing berries
Black Bear in Trash Bin
Bear running with fish
Black Bear in MRI


CDFW strives to ensure viable black bear (Ursus americanus) populations persist throughout the state where suitable habitat and other environmental conditions allow. Black bears provide many ecosystem services and are an important part of California's unique biodiversity. CDFW's Black Bear Program was established to coordinate scientific research and population monitoring, and to inform big game management, species management, and habitat conservation plans for black bears.

Conservation Plan Update

CDFW has opened public comment on the April 2024 Draft of the Black Bear Conservation Plan for California(opens in new tab) until June 14, 2024. To provide public comment, choose one of the following options:

Comment by Email

Email and include “Black Bear Conservation Plan” in the subject line. Specify line number and chapter in your email.

Comment by Mail

Mail comments by post to:
  CDFW - Wildlife Branch
  ATTN: Black Bear Program
  P.O. Box 944209
  Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Sign up to receive email updates about Black Bear Conservation.


    The general wildlife conservation policy of the State is to encourage the conservation and maintenance of wildlife resources under the jurisdiction and influence of the State (Section 1801, Fish and Wildlife Code). The policy encompasses black bear conservation and includes several objectives, such as:

    • To provide for the beneficial use and enjoyment of wildlife by all citizens of the State;
    • To perpetuate all species of wildlife for their intrinsic and ecological values, as well as for their direct benefits to man;
    • To provide for aesthetic, educational, and non-appropriative uses of the various wildlife species;
    • To maintain diversified recreational uses of wildlife, including hunting, as proper uses of certain designated species of wildlife, subject to regulations consistent with public safety, and a quality outdoor experience;
    • To provide for economic contributions to the citizens of the State through the recognition that wildlife is a renewable resource of the land by which economic return can accrue to the citizens of the State, individually and collectively, through regulated management. Such management shall be consistent with the maintenance of healthy and thriving wildlife resources and the public ownership status of the wildlife resource;
    • To alleviate economic losses or public health and safety problems caused by wildlife; and
    • To maintain sufficient populations of all species of wildlife and the habitat necessary to achieve the above stated objectives.

    Specific to black bears, the Draft Black Bear Conservation Plan for California defines two main goals:

    1. To conserve black bear populations that are abundant, disease-resilient, genetically diverse statewide and regionally, and conserve and enhance their habitats; and
    2. To provide opportunities for black bear hunting, viewing, and public education; minimize human-black bear conflict; consider animal welfare in black bear conservation; and be inclusive of all Californians in black bear conservation decisions.

    Biology and Behavior


    Black bears are powerfully built large carnivores. Though they are the smallest of North America’s three bear species, they are the third largest of the world’s eight bear species. Despite their name, they can vary in color considerably, from off-white to cinnamon to tan to brown to black. Not uncommonly, black bears have pale chest patches which may vary considerably in size and shape.

    • Adult females (sows) typically weigh 100 - 300 pounds. Adult males (boars) typically weigh 150 - 400 pounds, with some males weighing upwards of 500 pounds. Black bears that have access to anthropogenic food often weigh more than those in wildland environments.
    • Black bears have powerful limbs and well-developed claws on large, strong paws. They can stand and even walk upright for short distances, and their forelimbs are highly dexterous and nimble.
    • Black bears are excellent climbers able to quickly scale trees to avoid unwanted interactions with other animals or humans, though their arboreal abilities tend to decline with age.


    Black bears are highly flexible omnivores, with teeth adapted for feeding on both plant and animal matter. They are opportunistic and will eat nearly anything edible, including but not limited to:

    • Wild plant matter, such as berries, acorns, leaves, tree sap, roots, grasses, and forbs.
    • Wild animal matter, such as carrion, deer fawns, birds, eggs, and insects.
    • Anthropogenic food, such as garbage, crops, offal, pet food, candy, scented lotions, honey, and domestic animals.


    Black bears mate from June-August. Reproductive success in sows is related to food availability. Sows generally breed every other year and usually produce 1-4 cubs per litter.

    • Sows experience the phenomenon of “delayed implantation”: although they mate in the summer, the blastocyst’s development is suspended until November-December which is when “true pregnancy” begins, and the fetus attaches and develops.
    • If a sow has not accumulated enough body fat prior to hibernation, the fetus will spontaneously abort.
    • Cubs are born in January-February and weigh less than a pound at birth. Sows emerge from the den in March-May with their cubs weighing 5-7 pounds.

    Wildlife Branch - Game Program
    1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605
    Mailing: P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
    (916) 557-3444