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Black Bear Subspecies

 

 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF BLACK BEARS

 

Eastern Black Bear

Copyright Kate Marshall Graphics, Inc.

 

The species of bear that is pictured here is called an American Black Bear, or "Ursus Americanus." Of that species, there are sixteen subspecies. (These two photos are of two subspecies of the American Black Bear, Ursus americanus americanus from Tennessee and Ursus americanus luteolus from Louisiana.) 

 

These sixteen subspecies are all American Black Bears, and they all have many things in common, such as body shape, footprint, diet, etc. However, these subspecies each have something that is slightly different from the rest, that makes them unique. These varying characteristics seem to be driven by geographical or territorial differences, since each subspecies lives in a particular geographic area of North America. Sometimes you can tell that black bears are different subspecies simply by looking at them and noticing how they look different, such as these bears two shown here. However, even black bears that are the same subspecies can look a little different in different geographical areas. Minnesota Black Bears, and Eastern Black Bears such as the ones in Tennessee, are in the same subspecies. Yet, a Minnesota Black Bear has a furrier face than Eastern Black Bears who have a very sleek look, as shown above.

 

 

Louisiana Black Bear

Used With Permission. Copyright US Fish & Wildlife Service

From the Southeast Library: Usage Must Be Under Terms

 

Here are the 16 recognized subspecies of the American Black Bear in North America.

 

NORTH - NORTHEAST - EXTREME NORTHEAST -

SOUTH CENTRAL - EAST - SOUTHEAST

Ursus americanus americanus

CENTRAL AND EASTERN U.S. AND CANADA - FROM EASTERN MONTANA EASTWARD TO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, FROM ALASKA SOUTH AND EAST THROUGH CANADA TO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AND SOUTH TO TEXAS IN CENTRAL, TO TENNESSEE, SOUTH CAROLINA, NORTH CAROLINA, AND NORTH GEORGIA IN SOUTHEAST

(also called Minnesota Black Bear and Eastern Black Bear; these bears are almost always very black; Minnesota Black Bears tend to have thicker fur and fuzzier faces than their sleeker eastern neighbors; all are typically large to medium sized black bears)

 

Ursus americanus hamiltoni

EASTERN CANADA - NEWFOUNDLAND

(these large black bears eat more meat - including caribou and moose - than other black bears in North America because there is less vegetation available to them on the island; these bears also have the one of the longest hibernation period of all black bears)

 

EXTREME SOUTHEAST

Ursus americanus floridanus  

EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN U.S. - FLORIDA, SOUTHERN GEORGIA, SOUTHERN ALABAMA

(also called Florida Black Bear; state threatened; smaller bears)

 

SOUTH CENTRAL

Ursus americanus luteolus

SOUTH CENTRAL U.S. - LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI, SOUTHERN ARKANSAS, EAST TEXAS

(also called Louisiana Black Bear; federally threatened; typically smaller bears although some have been quite large)

 

EXTREME SOUTH

Ursus americanus machetes

NORTH-CENTRAL AND WESTERN MEXICO

(also called West Mexico Black Bear)

 

Ursus americanus eremicus

NORTHEASTERN MEXICO AND BIG BEND AREA OF TEXAS

(also called East Mexico Black Bear)

 

WEST

Ursus americanus amblyceps

WESTERN U.S. - WESTERN COLORADO, NEW MEXICO, SOUTHERN ARIZONA, WEST TEXAS, SOUTHEASTERN UTAH

(also called New Mexico Black Bear)

 

WEST COAST

Ursus americanus californiensis

PACIFIC COAST U.S. - CENTRAL CALIFORNIA NORTH THROUGH SOUTHERN OREGON

(also called California Black Bear)

 

NORTHWEST COAST, NORTHWEST AND EXTREME NORTHWEST

Ursus americanus altifrontalis

NORTHWESTERN U.S. AND WESTERN CANADA - THE PACIFIC NORTHWESTERN COAST FROM CENTRAL BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA, THROUGH NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, AND INLAND TO THE TIP OF NORTHERN IDAHO

(also called Olympic Black Bear)

 

Ursus americanus cinnamomum

NORTHWESTERN U.S. - IDAHO, WESTERN MONTANA, WYOMING, EASTERN COLORADO, EASTERN WASHINGTON AND OREGON, NORTHEASTERN UTAH

CANADA - WATERTON, BANFF AND JASPER NATIONAL PARKS, MOST OF BRITISH COLUMBIA EAST OF THE COAST RANGE

(also called Cinnamon Bear)

 

EXTREME NORTHWEST

Ursus americanus emmonsii 

EXTREME NORTHWeiESTERN U.S. - SOUTHEASTERN AND COASTAL ALASKA

CANADA: EXTREME NORTHWESTERN BRITISH COLUMBIA

(also called Glacier Bear or Blue Bear - it has bluish-black fur)

 

Ursus americanus perniger

EXTREME NORTHWESTERN U.S. - KENAI PENINSULA IN ALASKA

(also called Kenai Black Bear)

 

Ursus americanus pugnax

EXTREME NORTHWESTERN U.S. - ALEXANDER ARCHIPELAGO IN ALASKA

(also called Dall Black Bear)

 

Ursus americanus kermodei 

WESTERN CANADA - CENTRAL COAST OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

COASTAL MAINLAND FROM BURKE CHANNEL TO THE NASS RIVER AND MOST ADJACENT ISLANDS - white and black color phases

PRINCESS ROYAL AND GRIBBEL ISLANDS - 10% of black bears there are white

(also called Kermode Bear or Spirit Bear - it has cream or white fur)

 

Ursus americanus vancouveri

WESTERN CANADA - VANCOUVER ISLAND - BRITISH COLUMBIA

(also called Vancouver Black Bear)

 

Ursus americanus carlottae

WESTERN CANADA AND EXTREME NORTHWESTERN U.S. - QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS - BRITISH COLUMBIA AND ALASKA

(also called Queen Charlotte Black Bear)

 

Interesting fact: 8 of the 16 subspecies of American Black Bears can be found in British Columbia!

 

NOTE: In addition to these, we have found a reference to Ursus americanus randi in central Yukon Territory, Canada, in the "Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals" [1999], and a reference to seventeen black bear subspecies instead of sixteen on the USGS SOFIA (South Florida Information Access) website [2006], not included in other lists.

 

Black Bears in the extreme northwest who eat a lot of salmon tend to be larger.

 

[Thanks to Dr. Frank van Manen and others for comments about black bear subspecies for this article.]

 

 

 

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