Black Bear Population by State 2023

States Without Black Bears

Currently, there are 41 states where black bears are believed to be alive and thriving. In some states, very few black bears are left - or none at all. For example, in the state of Delaware, black bears originally roamed freely but have since been extirpated. Although black bears are not endangered, the largest cause of concern for their safety is their overpopulation. Black bears are also regularly mistaken for smaller grizzly bears, making them unintended targets for hunting or deterrents. The United States Fish and Wildlife Services currently do not deem this species endangered.

There are also no current sightings of black bears in Hawaii, Illinois, and South Dakota. Bears are not native to these states, largely due to the climate. For example, Hawaii is an extremely unique climate that does not mimic the structure of the mainland United States. However, they have one of the largest biodiversity in the state due to their tropical climate and unique position on the ocean.

States With Rare Sightings of Black Bears

Although black bears may not have any activity breeding populations, six states have some sightings of black bears. For example, it is extremely common to see black bears in Kansas. Black bears are not native to this region but border many states that actively breed black bears or have large populations. This means that many Kansas natives are able to observe frequent movements and migrations of bear populations throughout the entirety of the state. Other states include Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and rarely South Dakota.

It is extremely rare to have sightings of black bears near the south and south-center of the United States. Although they do not enjoy as frigid temperatures as polar bears, black bears live near the north of the country, with many sightings in the northeast and west. The smaller bear, the grizzly, is much more adapted to warmer climates and usually enjoys a more diverse habitat.

States With Many Black Bears

41 states have black bears in the region, native to the area or not. The chief is Alaska, with the highest number of black bears, estimated to be more than 100,000. Alaska enjoys a colder climate with vast outdoor regions, which black bears enjoy naturally. Their heavy weight, large fat deposits, and thick hair make them better suited for frigid climates, but they do not fare as well in the arctic conditions native to their heavier polar cousins. Alaska also has many laws protecting its wildlife, as the region experiences large open areas that promote biodiversity.

States in the northeast and far west, such as Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon, enjoy large black bear populations. Other states, such as Rhode Island, only have about 5-10 black bears, meaning that the bears in the vicinity of proximal states are establishing new habitats throughout the country.

Black Bear Population by State 2023