Black bear


Black bears have a broad head and short neck. They have small, black eyes, rounded ears and a long snout. While the colours of black bears range from blond to brown to black, the most common colour of bears in the NWT is black with a tan muzzle and often a white V on the chest. They are chunky, 1.5 to 1.8 m long and almost 1 m tall at the shoulder. On average, males weigh 115 to 170 kg. Females are smaller at 90 to 155 kg. Their weight varies considerably with the season.

From May until late July, black bears often congregate in river valleys and lowlands to forage on grasses and sedges. In early spring, they also depend on the carrion of winter-killed animals. Later on, they rob eggs from nesting waterfowl on river banks, fish along streams and dig up roots and tubers. In late summer and fall, berries are an important food.

Black bear cubs spend much of their time in trees resting and sunning themselves. They also seek refuge in trees when danger threatens.

Black bear
Black bear. Photo credit: Marcus Jackson


Black bears prefer forested areas, which provide seclusion and safety, with open spaces that provide berries, shrubs and grasses. They are omnivorous and highly adaptable in their food habits. A black bear’s diet varies seasonally and by locality.


Black bears are found below the treeline in the Northwest Territories. They are known as Sah Dezo in Tlicho, Sa dezene in North Slavey and Shoh to the Gwich'in. 


Black bear are classified as both a big game species and a furbearer in the NWT.

Bear safety

People travelling or living in bear country should give animals the respect they deserve and practice bear safety.