Black Bears in the Adirondacks

Adirondack black bear

Perhaps one of the most distinct and famous creatures in all of the Adirondack animal kingdom is the majestic, often curious, somewhat cantankerous, and altogether imposing Black Bear!

With a jet black coat of thick fur, short tail and distinct narrow brown muzzle, black bears have made the extensive forests of northern New York, particularly those within the Adirondack Park their preferred habitat. According to a study by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the NYS DEC, the Adirondack region is home to a healthy population of between 4,000 – 5,000 black bears.

Second only to the moose, the black bear is among the largest animals in the Adirondacks!  An average adult male weighs about 300 pounds while females average about 170 pounds. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the largest bear on record for the state however weighed in at a whopping 750 pounds!

Food Sources

Black bears are what is known as omnivorous, meaning they’ll eat just about anything.  Typically, their diet consists of grasses, berries, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, grubs, and scavenged carcasses.  But it can and often does include human sources of food, especially what can be found in your trash, and what’s easily available like birdseed and pet food, and yes, they do eat honey and if available your picnic basket too.

Don’t Feed the Bears!

Feeding bears creates a dangerous situation for everyone around you, including other campers, hikers and residents. Feeding bears creates bad habits that encourage bears to enter into places populated by humans, like campgrounds and recreation areas, and FEEDING BEARS is ILLEGAL.

In fact, the biggest problem managing the bear population is the tendency of humans to feed the animals, says the DEC.  “Bears learn from experience. If an activity results in food, they will repeat that activity,” the Department says.  “When bears learn to obtain food from humans, they can become bold and aggressive.”  Clearly, the last thing you’d want to top off your next camping trip is to encounter a short-tempered black bear with an eating disorder!

Hibernation & Bears

In the late winter to early spring, the black bears begin to come out of their winter dens and begin to roam in search of food.   Until recent, black bears were not thought of as “true hibernators” but recent evidence and re-defining of what hibernation actually is, has now re-classified the black bear as a hibernating mammal.

Hibernation occurs during a bear’s winter sleep state, when the degree of metabolism drops along with their heart rates, dropping from 40-50 beats/min. to as low as 8 beats/min.  Don’t be fooled by their slumber, or think that a black bear won’t wake up when hibernating.  Because a black bear’s body temperature remains relatively stable during its sleep cycle a black bear can be somewhat easily aroused, and after several months of sleep without a real meal, the term “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” could turn out to be a serious understatement.  Because of the black bear’s tendency to sleep lightly, most naturalists would suggest the terms “denning” or “winter lethargy” as opposed to “hibernation” be used.

Whatever you call it, suffice to say it is wise to back away slowly and quietly if you encounter a sleeping bear in winter!

Black Bear Raiding Campsite in the Adirondacks

[youtube width=”600″ height=”344″][/youtube]

Recommendations by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation


NYSDEC encourages campers to use bear resistant canisters throughout the Adirondack and Catskill backcountry.

Useful Bear Related Links

Do you have stories or pictures of a Black Bear in the Adirondacks?  Leave your comments below, or send photos to!