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Spot The Difference Between A Male and Female Bear

Three out of the world’s eight bear species live in North America. These species are black bears, brown grizzly bears, and polar bears.  I wanted to tell the difference between males and females, so I have done some research.

Male bears are much larger than female bears. Males have a different face shape, with different ears and body shape that helps to distinguish them.

Gender identification can be puzzling in the wild, and unless you come across a bear followed by her cubs or a bear that is urinating, it can be difficult to tell. With each of the three-bear species, there are ways to differentiate between them. 

With these tips, you will easily make out whether a bear wandering around in the fields is a male or female. Here, we present a comprehensive step by step guide to identifying the distinction between male & female bears at a distance. 

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Male Bear Characteristics 


Male black bear

The ears of a male bear are wide apart compared to the females.  The ears of a male bear are smaller and almost look out of place compared to the head’s massive size.

Head, Shoulders, and Neck

The head of a male bear is square and broad. The masculine shoulders are very thick. The big muscles of the bear create a valley like structure down the forehead. 

The shoulders are massive and much wider than their head. Male bears are much more likely to have scarring on their head, muzzle, and even missing parts of their ears due to fighting throughout their lifetime.

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Body Shape and Legs

The adult bear male has long legs. The bear’s front legs are solid and heavy down to the feet with wide ankles to support them. The midsection of a male bear appears to be bulky due to the fat reserves they need to build up to hibernate.

Male black bear

Sex Organ & Urination

The testicles and sheath of the penis are highly visible on a male bear. Their style of urinating is forward, between the legs. This is one of the best ways to tell if the bear you are looking at is male or female.

Female Bear Characteristics 


The ears of the female bear are large on the head, compared to the male bear.  

Head, Shoulders, and Neck

The head of the female bears is narrow compared to the round head size of the male bears. Female bears have a tapered muzzle. Whereas on a male bear, the shoulders are much broader than their head, female bears generally have shoulders that are the same width as their head. 

Body Shape and Legs

The legs are shorter and thinner in comparison to their male counterparts. The front legs of the bear appear to taper to the narrower shoulders. The female bears look stockier and closer to the ground since they have shorter legs. Cubs around females also pull the hair out of the armpit, another sign of a female bear.

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Female black bear

Sex Organ and Urination

A female nursing bear roaming around with her cubs can easily be identified. Female bears urinate to the rear and outwards. Female bears may also squat to urinate.

Female grizzly bear

Are Male Black Bears Bigger Than Female bears?

Male bears are larger in comparison to females. Male adult black bears weigh in the range of 59 – 300 kg, whereas the females weigh 40 – 79 kg. However, in May and June, the mating season occurs, and the female bear gains weight due to pregnancy.

Female bears are shorter, stockier, and leaner in stature, in contrast to the males.  

Adult bears have much more heavily muscled shoulders, heads & necks than their female counterparts. The head of the male bear is much rounder and broader when compared with the female bears. 

The ears of the female bears are generally more prominent than the males. 

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Are Male and Female Black Bear Faces Different?

There is a big contrast between the face shape of a male and a female bear. The female bear’s face is much more narrow, while the males have a much wider head. 

If we look at the bear’s ears, you will observe that the male bears have smaller ears in the proportions of their rounded head. When viewed together, the difference between the male and female bears is often minimal, but the smaller and narrow head is the best way to tell the difference between a male and a female bear.

How to Determine the Difference Between a Male and a Female Grizzly Bear?

The most natural means to tell the difference between a male and a female bear is to observe the way the bear urinates. If the bear’s stream of urine is coming from the back, the bear is a female. If the urine stream is underneath the torso, then you will be looking at a male bear. 

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brown bear urinating
Female grizzly bear

Another way to find out the difference is to look at the sexual organ of the male bear as it is easily visible. It is, however, small in proportion to body size.

If the grizzly bear is moving with little cubs, this is a sign that a bear is a female. Cubs stay with their mother for two to three years, after which the cubs roam on their own. 

The weight of the adult females is between 130-180kg, with males weighing between 180-360 kg. Female bears have much shorter legs and are a bit shorter in appearance.  

Male grizzly bear

During the mating season in May-June, the walk of the male bears becomes a swagger, with their legs moving further than their normal position.

In places where bears eat claims, female bears are more likely to be digging for clams than the males.

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How to Determine the Difference Between a Male & a Female Black Bear?

The ears of the female bears are further apart and much larger than the males. If the ears are big in proportion to the head, then the bear is likely to be female. The head of the female bear is narrower and not round. Males typically have a roundish, wider head, so their ears seem to be much smaller. When the ears are more on top, then in most likelihood, the bear is female. The ears of a male bear are on the side of the head.

The way the bear urinates is a helpful feature in determining gender. A male black bear has its urine stream coming underneath the belly. When the female urinates, the urine streams out from the back or from a squatting position.

The size of the bear is simple to identify the gender of the bear roaming in the forest. Large and round are the two most common characteristics of a male bear, whereas a female black bear is leaner and smaller. Male bears spend most of their time alone seeking out a mate, but the female bears stay with their cubs. 

Male bears appear bulkier in appearance, and if you have the right angle, you can visibly see the sexual organ. The neck of a male bear is much thicker and broader. The female bears climb small trees and shrubs during the mating season, leaving a scent behind, whereas male bears do not.

Another way to tell gender is closely looking at the backside of the bear. Female bears have long hairs beneath the tails, forming a ponytail. This allows them to leave out a scent mark. 

You can also tell the difference if you manage to see the nipples of the bear. If the female bear has cubs, then the cubs, while feeding, pull the hair out, making the nipples highly visible. You can see this from the side of the female bear, especially among the older females.  

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How to Determine the Difference Between a Male & a Female Polar Bear?

To tell the difference between a male and a female polar bear, this can be seen from the bear’s appearance. Male bears generally grow two to three times larger than females. Male polar bears typically weigh around 1500 pounds, while the non-pregnant females can weigh up to 500 pounds.  

Male polar bear

The height of the female polar bears while standing is in the range of 6.6 to 8.2 feet. Males can stand between 8.2 to 9.8 feet tall. Like grizzly bears, if the bear is with cubs, then that bear is female. 

The urination is similar to other bears, with the female bear urinating to the back. The male polar bears urinate in front, as do the brown and black bears.

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Mating Season

Bears enjoy solitary lives, but males and females are found together during the mating season. Four to five years is the average breeding age of a female grizzly, while the breeding age is between three to five years for female black bears.  

The breeding season commences in May until the end of June. The female bears get fat to protect the unborn cub. A pregnant bear can look like a male bear due to the extra layers of fat, making them bulky.

Adult females establish homes for their cubs to stay with them during the first few years of their years. Male bears don’t follow the concept of being with the female and cubs, traveling solo to pursue another mate. If you find a bear roaming in the fields with no other bears in proximity, then the chances are high that this is a female bear.

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Differentiation between male and female bears centers on physical characteristics.

Although these are the best way of identifying gender, a pregnant or overweight bear can be difficult to differentiate.  Age can make a difference in the size of the ears. During the first three years, even the males have big ears, so you must be careful.

I hope I have provided an easy checklist to find the gender of black bears, brown grizzly bears, and polar bears. With practical experience and in-depth knowledge, you should now be able to identify these three types of bears in the wild.

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