Home Animals Black Bears in North Carolina (Diet, Lifestyle, Habitat, more)

Black Bears in North Carolina (Diet, Lifestyle, Habitat, more)

black bear

Black bears are one of the most iconic animals in North Carolina, and for many locals, spotting a bear in the wild is a memorable experience. For years these mammals have called the forests of North Carolina home due to its range of habitats, from the Appalachian Mountains to the coast. Black bears can be seen across the state during all four seasons, primarily foraging for food and searching for mates in the spring and summer months.

black bears in north carolina

Are there Black Bears in North Carolina?

North Carolina is one of just 27 states in the United States where Black Bear sightings are possible. While the Black Bear was once close to being extinct in the area, conservation efforts have resulted in an increasing population over the years – likely due to wildlife management and better habitat protection for them. Black Bears can be found throughout the entire state, with hotspots existing in Appalachian Mountains regions such as Beech Mountain and Grandfather Mountain.

Where are Black Bears located in North Carolina?

North Carolina is home to two species of bears – black and American brown. These large animals are most common in the western part of the state, which is encompassed by the Appalachian Mountains and contains dense forests, a bear’s ideal habitat. Brown bears especially tend to shy away from inhabited areas, so they end up preferring the more secluded areas that are abundant on these hills and mountains


Black Bears in North Carolina inhabit a variety of habitats, from the Great Smoky Mountains to the coastal plains. They prefer mixed hardwood forests with access to plenty of food sources such as nuts, berries, insects and even garbage! Coastal black bears have been known to swim between islands and eat shellfish along shorelines. During winter months, they tend to move lower in elevation, where they remain inactive for long durations of time in dens that are often dug into hillsides or tree hollows.

Bear pair


They are opportunistic feeders and eat fruits, nuts, insects, honey and anything else that will provide them with sustenance. In the summer months, they prefer to consume plant foods such as berries or other sweet material whilst, during the winter, they tend to dine on carrion and small prey such as rodents or deer.


North Carolina is home to the American black bear, (Ursus American). The colour of these bears is typically black, although some have been observed with brown and blond coats in certain areas of North Carolina. This variation in coat colour is believed to be due to different diets and outdoor temperatures. Variations in the amount of sunlight can also affect the colour of a black bear’s coat. 

bear with cub

Size, Lifespan and Weight 

The average black bear will weigh between 150 to 600 pounds, or even more in some cases. In terms of length, an adult black bear can have a total standing size of 3 to 7 feet. Furthermore, black bears are long-lived species with a lifespan of approximately 15 – 25 years when living in the wild, and up to 30 years when in captivity. 


Bears in South Carolina have the occasional run-in with some of their more vicious predators, such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. Fortunately for the bears, they are generally much larger than their predators and can often repel the attack. Still, if the predator sees an opportunity like a bear cub being left alone for even just a few minutes it might rush in to feed or carry away the smaller animal.

This is something all bear families should keep in mind when venturing into North Carolina’s forests and mountain ranges; while they may never see any of these predators on their travels, they must still be aware that they could be nearby lurking in shadows or behind tall grasses.

bear in backyard


Black bears are equipped with sophisticated reproductive strategies that have allowed the species to thrive, even in the face of intense competition for resources. Their mating period starts in mid-May, although different populations have slight variations in timing. During this time, female bears will mate with multiple males and store sperm from each mating until wintertime when she enters into a state of delayed implantation.

This means that although her body can hold onto multiple sets of sperm at once, it won’t begin the process of producing cubs until later on in the year. A few months after entering hibernation, she’ll give birth to litters averaging two cubs (though litters can range between one and four). The mother bear will raise these cubs on her own over the winter before they venture out on their own come springtime.

How many bears are in North Carolina?

North Carolina is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and according to the state government, it has an especially large population of bears. In fact, there are an estimated 15,000-16,000 bears in the state – more than any other in the Southeast United States.

When do black bears hibernate in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, black bears typically begin their hibernation during the months of December, January and February. Depending on the region of Great Smoky Mountains National Park where they live, bears might hibernate even earlier or continue until April. During this period of dormancy, the body temperature and metabolic processes slow down significantly so that the bear does not need to eat for survival; instead, it will use stored fat as an energy source to stay alive during this hibernation period.

What do Black Bears eat in North Carolina?

Black bears in North Carolina have a diverse diet. While they primarily feed on vegetation, such as berries and nuts, they also consume small mammals, including voles, chipmunks, ground squirrels even white-tailed deer fawns. Black bears sometimes also eat carrion and scavenge human-related food sources like trash cans and bird feeders 




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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.

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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.


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