Living with Black Bears in Newfoundland and Labrador
Our Traditional Predator
Black bears (Ursus americanus) are native to Newfoundland and
Labrador. They are found throughout the province, although they are
rarely observed on the Avalon Peninsula.
Newfoundland and Labrador's black
bears roam large territories: recent studies indicate a female black bear’s home range
to be 60-250 km², while a male’s home range can reach 850 km².
Black bears in the wild are
usually most active around dawn and dusk (crepuscular); bears living
in closer proximity to humans are more nocturnal.
Black bears prefer heavily wooded
areas and dense bush.
There are no reliable estimates
of the total black bear population in North America because of the
animals’ secretive nature, but populations are believed to be about
600,000, with more than 380,000 in Canada. Population numbers in
Newfoundland and Labrador are
estimated at 6,000 to 10,000 bears.
Identifying Black Bears
Like most animals, black
usually have a natural fear of people, but they can quickly get used to life in
residential areas as long as they have easy access to food. Although attacks on humans are extremely
rare, they can occur if a black bear becomes too comfortable around
people and starts associating humans with food.
- Bulky animal with a moderate-sized head; a
tapered, brownish muzzle and long nostrils; rounded ears;
small eyes; and a short tail. Coat is usually black,
sometimes with a white patch on the throat or chest. Feet
are furry with five curved, non-retractable claws used for
digging and tearing out stumps or roots.
- Average size is approximately 5 ft (150 cm)
long, with shoulder height varying from 3-4 ft high (100 to
120 cm). Adult males weigh about 200-300 lb (90-136 kg)
although weights of more than 640 lb (290 kg) have been
recorded in bears that eat garbage and human food. Females
are much smaller than males, averaging 110-180 lb (50-80
- Emerge from dens and begin searching for food
in early spring, and will eat almost anything available,
including plants, berries, ants, fish, small mammals, and
birds. Also eat carrion or garbage, and are often attracted
to garbage dumps, campsites, or homes where food is readily
available. In spring they are known to prey on moose and
Flexible lips and a long, agile tongue to
help access small pieces of food and insects. Although its
eyesight is relatively poor at distance, a black bear has a
keen sense of hearing. Black bears can run up to 55 km/hour,
and are also good swimmers and climbers.
Are black bears
We live in harmony with most wildlife in Newfoundland and
Labrador, often without even realizing it. Our forests and barrens are
home to many animals. Unless we intentionally seek them out, some people
can go a lifetime without being aware of their presence. As long as
humans and wildlife respect each others’ boundaries, conflicts can be
avoided – but we all have to do our part to make sure we don’t encourage
behaviour that could cause problems for wildlife.
bears are always looking for an easy meal. Once they find a source of
human food or garbage, they continue to seek it out from backpacks,
picnic tables, coolers or garbage cans. When black bears become
accustomed (or habituated) to humans, their natural fear of people fades
and they take more chances to access food. Habituated bears are
unpredictable and may become aggressive.
can be done to manage habituated bears. These animals often pay with
their lives for human mistakes. Avoid creating problem bears by making
sure food, trash and other attractants are stored properly.
Although black bears are usually timid and attacks are extremely rare,
they are wild animals and can be dangerous.
black bears are near your home, cabin or campsite:
Do not feed them.
Do not leave food, pet food, bottles, pop cans or
food containers outside.
Store food, garbage, coolers, camp stoves, pots and
pans in your shed, cabin or vehicle.
Harvest fruit from fruit trees when ripe.
Keep dairy products and meat out of compost piles.
Clean barbecue grills after use to minimize odour.
Bird feeders attract bears. Remove bird feeders from
your yard in April
and replace them in November.
Store garbage inside a shed or garage until just
When camping, dispose of waste water in a pit privy
alert when walking in the woods:
Watch for signs of bear activity, such as tracks,
scat, evidence of digging, or claw marks on trees.
Avoid areas bears may frequent, such as garbage
Make your presence known by making noise as you walk;
talk, sing, blow a whistle
or call out occasionally.
Keep dogs leashed. Dogs running loose can lead a bear
back to you or provoke an attack.
black bear approaches you:
- Stay calm.
- Give the bear
space and an escape route.
- Speak calmly and
firmly, avoid eye contact, and back away slowly
- Never run or try
to climb a tree. Bears can do both of these things better than you!
- If the bear
begins to follow you, drop something (not food) to distract it.
- Be cautious
around females with cubs.
- If the bear attacks
you, fight back and make a lot of noise. Do not "play dead."
For more information, or to report a coyote sighting, please contact:
Department of Environment and Conservation
P.O. Box 2007
117 Riverside Drive
Tel: (709) 637-2025