The American black bear (Ursus americanus), also simply called black bear is a bear native to North America.
The skulls of American black bears are broad, with narrow muzzles and large jaw hinges. In Virginia, the total length of adult bear skulls was found to average 262 to 317 mm (10.3 to 12.5 in). Across its range, the greatest skull length for the species has been reportedly measured from 23.5 to 35 cm (9.3 to 13.8 in).[page needed] Females tend to have slenderer and more pointed faces than males. Their claws are typically black or grayish-brown. The claws are short and rounded, being thick at the base and tapering to a point. Claws from both hind and front legs are almost identical in length, though the foreclaws tend to be more sharply curved. The paws of the species are relatively large, with a rear foot length of 13.7 to 22.5 cm (5.4 to 8.9 in), which is proportionately larger than other medium-sized bear species, but much smaller than the paws of large adult brown, and especially polar, bears.[page needed] The soles of the feet are black or brownish and are naked, leathery and deeply wrinkled. The hind legs are relatively longer than those of Asian black bears. The vestigial tail is usually 4.8 inches (120 mm) long. The ears are small and rounded and are set well back on the head.
American black bears are highly dexterous, being capable of opening screw-top jars and manipulating door latches. They also have great physical strength; a bear weighing 120 pounds (54 kg) was observed turning flat rocks weighing 310 to 325 pounds (141 to 147 kg) by flipping them over with a single foreleg. They move in a rhythmic, sure-footed way and can run at speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour (40 to 48 km/h). American black bears have good eyesight and have been proven experimentally to be able to learn visual color discrimination tasks faster than chimpanzees and just as fast as domestic dogs. They are also capable of rapidly learning to distinguish different shapes such as small triangles, circles and squares.
American black bear weight tends to vary according to age, sex, health and season. Seasonal variation in weight is very pronounced: in autumn, their pre-den weight tends to be 30% higher than in spring, when black bears emerge from their dens. American black bears on the East Coast tend to be heavier on average than those on the West Coast, although American black bears follow Bergmann's rule and bears from the Northwest are often slightly heavier than the bears from the Southeast. Adult males typically weigh between 57–250 kg (126–551 lb), while females weigh 33% less at 41–170 kg (90–375 lb).
In the state of California, studies have indicated that the average mass is 86 kg (190 lb) in adult males and 58 kg (128 lb) in adult females. Adult American black bears in Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Alaska were found to average 87.3 kg (192 lb) in males and 63.4 kg (140 lb) in females, whereas on Kuiu Island in southeastern Alaska (where nutritious salmon are readily available) adult American black bears averaged an estimated 115 kg (254 lb). In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, adult males averaged 112 kg (247 lb) and adult females averaged 47 kg (104 lb) per one study. In one of the largest studies on regional body mass, bears in British Columbia averaged 73.7 kg (162 lb) in 89 females and 103.1 kg (227 lb) in 243 males. In Yellowstone National Park, a population study found that adult males averaged 119 kg (262 lb) and adult females averaged 67 kg (148 lb). Black bears in north-central Minnesota averaged 69.9 kg (154 lb) in 163 females and 124.95 kg (275 lb) in 77 males. In New York, the two sexes reportedly average 136 kg (300 lb) for males, and 72.6 kg (160 lb) for females. It was found in Nevada and the Lake Tahoe region that American black bears closer to urban regions were significantly heavier than their arid-country dwelling counterparts, with males near urban areas averaging 138 kg (304 lb) against wild-land males which averaged 115.5 kg (255 lb) whereas peri-urban females averaged 97.9 kg (216 lb) against the average of 65.2 kg (144 lb) in wild-land ones. In Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, adults reportedly averaged 125 to 128 kg (276 to 282 lb).[page needed] Adults typically range from 120 to 200 cm (47 to 79 in) in head-and-body length, and 70 to 105 cm (28 to 41 in) in shoulder height. The typically small tail is 7.7–17.7 cm (3.0–7.0 in) long. Although they are the smallest bear species in North America, large males exceed the size of other bear species, except the brown bear and the polar bear.
The biggest wild American black bear ever recorded was a male from New Brunswick, shot in November 1972, that weighed 409 kg (902 lb) after it had been dressed, meaning it weighed an estimated 500 kg (1,100 lb) in life and measured 2.41 m (7.9 ft) long.[page needed] Another notably outsized wild American black bear, weighing in at 408 kg (899 lb) in total, was the cattle-killer shot in December 1921 on the Moqui Reservation in Arizona.[page needed] The record-sized American black bear from New Jersey was shot in Morris County December 2011 and scaled 376.5 kg (830 lb). Even larger, the most massive American black bear recorded in Pennsylvania (one of six weighing over 363 kg (800 lb) shot in the last 15 years in the state) weighed in at 399 kg (880 lb) and was shot in November 2010 in Pike County. The North American Bear Center, located in Ely, Minnesota, is home to the world's largest captive male and female American black bears. Ted, the male, weighed 431–453.5 kg (950–1,000 lb) in the fall of 2006. Honey, the female, weighed 219.6 kg (484 lb) in the fall of 2007.
The fur is soft, with dense underfur and long, coarse, thick guard hairs. The fur is not as shaggy or coarse as that of brown bears.[page needed] American black bear skins can be distinguished from those of Asian black bears by the lack of a white blaze on the chest and hairier footpads. Despite their name, American black bears show a great deal of color variation. Individual coat colors can range from white, blonde, cinnamon, light brown or dark chocolate brown to jet black, with many intermediate variations existing. Silvery-gray American black bears with a blue luster (this is found mostly on the flanks) occur along a portion of coastal Alaska and British Columbia. White to cream-colored American black bears occur in the coastal islands and the adjacent mainland of southwestern British Columbia. Albino individuals have also been recorded.: 141 Black coats tend to predominate in moist areas such as Maine, New York, Tennessee, Michigan and western Washington. Approximately 70% of all American black bears are black, though only 50% of American black bears in the Rocky Mountains are black. Many American black bears in northwestern North America are cinnamon, blonde or light brown in color and thus may sometimes be mistaken for grizzly bears. Grizzly (and other types of brown) bears can be distinguished by their shoulder hump, larger size and broader, more concave skull.