Black bears can be found in almost all states in the USA, but there are some states where the number is very few or they do not live. I have been on a mission to see a bear in every state, and have now seen a black bear in 23 states. This inspired me to put together this guide of where they are found and where I have been looking.
An estimated 300,000 black bears live in the U.S. Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming have less than 1000 black bears each, while Alaska has about 100,000. Hawaii has no black bears.
If you want to find out the best place to see black bears in your state or in another state you are visiting, then please read on to find out where, the best time, and the best way to stay safe while viewing wild black bears.
|300 to 1000
|30,000 to 40,000
|10,000 to 12,000
|15,000 to 19,000
|Less than 500
|12,000 to 15,000
|Close to 5,000
|8,000 to 9,000
|6,000 to 8,000
|25,000 to 30,000
|16,000 to 18,000
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Alabama?
Two groups of black bears can be found in Alabama. There are a group of around 30 bears living in Northeast Alabama around Cherokee, DeKalb, and Etowah Counties. These bears are believed to have come from Northwest Georgia.
The second group is a larger group of about 85 bears, and these are in Mobile and Washington counties in Southwest Alabama. There have also been other sightings around the State, indicating that populations are rising in Alabama.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Alaska?
Alaska has the largest population of black bears, with an estimated 100,000 black bears in Alaska. Black bears can be found in most forested areas, from high alpine regions down to sea level, although this depends on the season.
There are no black bears on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, north of the Brooks Range or the Seward Peninsula.
They are also not found on some of the larger islands of the Gulf of Alaska, such as Montague, Hinchinbrook, Kodiak, and others. There are no black bears on the Alaska Peninsula of the Lake Iliamna area.
In Southeast Alaska, black bears exist on most islands except Admiralty, Chicago, Kruzof, and Baranof. Black bears are abundant in the Southeastern mainland of Alaska.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Arizona?
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Arizona?
The black bear is the only species of bear in Arizona and has an estimated population of 2,500–3,000. Most live in forested regions of the state, including forests outside Flagstaff and down to Sedona and Prescott. They can also be found at Roosevelt Lake, the White Mountains, and the Mongolian Rim.
In the Southeast of Arizona, black bears are found in Mt. Graham, Santa Catalina, Rincon, and Santa Rita mountains and the mountains outside Tucson.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Arkansas?
Arkansas was once known as the bear state, but by the 1930s, it was estimated that less than 50 black bears remained in the State. With the reintroduction of 254 black bears into Arkansas between 1958 and 1968 and regulated hunting and habitat improvement, the black bear population has risen to over 3,000 animals.
They can be found in three main places in Arkansas. The Ozark Highlands and the Ouachita Mountains, and the National Forest house the most significant black bear populations in the State. A smaller population of bears in the White River Basin is cut off from integrating with the other bears in the State.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in California?
With an estimated 35,000 bears in California, the population has increased significantly since 1982, when there were just 10,000–15,000 bears in the State. There are two subspecies of black bears in California, the Northwestern black bear and the California black bear.
In California, there are three subpopulations of black bears. Approximately half of the black bears in the state reside in the North Coast/Cascade region and occur North and West of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Sierra Nevada bears live in the Sierra Floristic Province, extending from Plumas County South to Kern County. There are two National Parks in this region, and the U.S. Forest Service provides over two-thirds of the habitat.
The third subpopulation extends from Santa Cruz County south and east to San Diego County. It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the California black bear population inhabits this region.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Colorado?
There are an estimated 19,000 black bears in Colorado, up from 12,000 in the early 2000s. Black bears reside throughout the Rocky Mountain National Park, State Forest State Park, and the San Juan Skyway.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Connecticut?
The black bear is rare throughout most of Connecticut. However, they can be found in Hartford and Lichfield Counties, in the Northwestern and North Central areas.
Black bears have also been spotted as far South as Greenwich. There are an estimated 1200-1500 black bears in the State. There have been over 6000 reported sightings since 2016 from most of the state’s towns.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Delaware?
Very few black bears live in Delaware, with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife not mentioning them on its website. There have been a few sightings in the State, including in New Castle County and along the Delaware water gap.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Florida?
Approximately 4,050 black bears live in Florida, and they can be seen in nearly every part of Florida, ranging from the West Panhandle to the North, through the big bend, and down to the South.
The best places to spot them are in Ocala National Forest, Apalachicola National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Eglin Air Force base, and Osceola National Forest. Smaller populations of between 20-40 bears live in the Chassahowitzka NWR.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Georgia?
Depending on the time of year, the black bear will move over the entire state in search of food or territory. They are mainly seen in three regions; the North Georgia mountains, around the Okefenokee Swamp in the Southeast, and the Ocmulgee River drainage in Central Georgia. There are approximately 5,100 black bears, with about 400 in the Central region.
Can You Find Black Bears in Hawaii?
There are no wild black bears on any of the Hawaiian Islands.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Idaho?
There are approximately 20,000 black bears in the State of Idaho. Their habitat ranges mostly north of the Snake River plain, over 30,000 square miles. Due to the lack of food in Idaho, their territories must be more significant than most states.
Can You Find Black Bears in Illinois?
Black bears were once common in Illinois but have been eliminated from the state since the 1800s. The Illinois wildlife conservatory protects black bears under the Animal protection act of 2015.
There are no large populations of Black bears in Illinois. However, there is plenty of potentials for migratory bears from Wisconsin and Missouri to travel into the state.
Can You Find Black Bears in Indiana?
Black bears are rare in Indiana and, most of the time, migrate through the state. They were reported to have been seen in 1871 and again in 2015.
The black bear’s rarity in Indiana can be attributed to degradation, which terminated them from the state by 1850. According to reports from the Department of Natural Resource Biologists in Indiana, no black bears currently live.
Can You Find Black Bears in Iowa?
Before the 1900s, black bears were prevalent in the state of Iowa. The black bear was often considered a pest, which caused the local extinction by hunters and agricultural practices. In the late 1800s, black bears were extirpated from Kansas. In recent years, there have been no sightings of these animals.
Can You Find Black Bears in Kansas?
Black bears were once common throughout the state, but by the 1800s, they had been extirpated. For many years, black bears were not seen in Kansas. However, in the early 2000s, there was documentation of black bears during spring in the southwest.
Black bears do occasionally occur in the southeast and southwest corners of the state, but there are not thought to be any large populations living there.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Kentucky?
Kentucky bears feast on spring wheat. They were believed to have come into the state from New Mexico or Colorado. The population in Kentucky is growing, and an estimated 500 black bears live there.
The largest population can be found along the Pine, Cumberland, and Black Mountain areas, but they can also be found along the eastern regions.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Louisiana?
Louisiana does have black bears, but only a few. Black bears are found mainly along the Atchafalaya River Basin and the Mississippi River Valley. Under the 1992-2016 U.S. Endangered Species Act, the black bear was classified as threatened.
Tenses subpopulation data revealed 300 bears in Louisiana between 2006 and 2008. It is unknown what the current population is, but they have now been sighted in almost every parish, so it seems that numbers are increasing. They can be found in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, although their range has expanded west and east of the Mississippi River.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Maine?
Although Maine is the 12th smallest state, it is home to several thousand black bears. They are primarily found in the north and Eastern parts of the state, while in the central and southern regions, they are rare.
In the 1970s, the popularity of bear hunting increased. In 1979, an estimated six to nine thousand black bears lived in the state.
In 1984, a total of 18,000 bears were estimated. A year later, the population increased to 21,000 bears. By 1998, about 22,000-23,000 bears in Maine showed a healthy increase.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Maryland?
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Maryland?
Maryland shares borders with Virginia, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Black bears can be found in Frederick, Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties of Maryland. The population size of the black bear was estimated in the year 2000. The estimate was calculated at 2000 subadult and adult bears.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has had a large population of black bears since the 1970s. The black bear population in the state is over 4,500.
Black bears can be found in northern Middlesex County, Worcester County, and west to the Berkshires. A small population of bears also live in other eastern Massachusetts communities along Route 495.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Michigan?
About 15,000-19,000 black bears roam the conifer and hardwood forest in the northern part of Michigan. In Michigan, bears enter their dens by December and come out in early April. They leave their burrows for only a short period when disturbed.
The population of adult black bears in Michigan is around 14,000. The upper peninsula has almost 11,000 black bears, while the northern lower Peninsula has 3,000 black bears.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Minnesota?
The population of black bears in Minnesota is between 12,000-15,000. Due to the significant number of people, Minnesota hunters harvest almost 3,000 black bears annually. Hunting license sales for bears are usually restricted to maintain the population size of bears in the state.
Bears are found mainly in the Northern forested areas. Some bears are in Washington and Anoka counties, which make up the northern and eastern parts of the state. However, they can be found in the state’s southern, western, and northern regions, with bears being drawn to the south by farm crops.
In urban areas, it is not easy to see wild bears. However, bears have been seen in Hudson, Maplewood, Woodbury, and the St. Croix River areas.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, most bears are found along the Pearl, Pascagoula, and Mississippi river drainages. Years ago, there was a vast population of black bears in Mississippi. However, only 200-250 black bears are present in the state currently.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Missouri?
There are 100 to 200 black bears currently present in Missouri. You can find most black bears on the South of the Missouri River, although a few bears can be found in the northern counties. The black bear is the largest wild mammal in the state.
Most bears live south of Interstate 44 but can be seen as far north as the Iowa line. Counties along the south of I-44 have more sightings than those North.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Montana?
Surrounded by twenty-six thousand bears in Canada, fifteen thousand in British Columbia, and seven hundred in Alberta, Montana gets plenty of migratory bears through the state. You can find black bears in the Glacier and Yellowstone national park areas, but they reside across most of the state.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Nebraska?
There are no recent records of black bears in the Eastern part of Nebraska. However, black bears in the north-central area, upper Loup River, and Niobrara river region were reported a few years ago. In 2008, bears were sighted five times by Iowa wildlife officials.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Nevada?
Black bears are restricted to a small area in Nevada. These bears are near Lake Tahoe and Reno, while others can be seen at the state’s western edge.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife estimates the black bear population size in Nevada to be between three to four hundred individuals.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in New Hampshire?
Nearly 5000 bears currently live in New Hampshire. The black bears in this state hibernate in late October to early December and emerge in late March to early April. Black bears are the only bear species in this state.
Crawford Notch is a significant pass through New Hampshire’s White Mountains and is a large state park. Black bears can often be spotted in this area.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in New Jersey?
Black bears are found in ten counties in New Jersey, with almost 5,000 living in the state. Their habitat includes the wetlands and luscious forests located in New Jersey. Many black bears can be spotted in the woods outside the city.
Black bears in New Jersey can be found in Sussex, Passaic, Warren, and Morris counties.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in New Mexico?
The black bear is the state mammal of New Mexico, and its population is estimated at 5000-6000. They are found in open grasslands, forests, and almost all forested areas in the state.
Black bears occur in all mountainous areas of New Mexico, from Chama in the North to the Guadalupe and Peloncillo mountains and Lincoln National Forest to the North.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in New York?
The population of black bears in New York is between 6000-8000. 50-60% of black bears are found in the Adirondacks, 30-35% in the Catskills, while the remaining 10-15% are in central/western New York. The largest population of black bears is in the Catskill Mountains.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in North Carolina?
There are about 20,000 bears in North Carolina, and the population is growing steadily.
In the mountains and coastal regions, black bears are highly populated. They are also common in Piedmont. Many years ago, black bears lived in almost all the forested areas of North Carolina. However, early settlers often killed these bears to protect their families, livestock, and crops.
Habitat loss from clear-cutting and agricultural development also affected these bears. In the mid-1900s, bears could only be found in the coastal swamps and remote mountains.
The bear population suffered in the 1920s as a fungus that killed trees destroyed a vital nut-producing tree.
Can You Find Black Bears in North Dakota?
In recent years, black bears have been sighted in North Dakota. In July 2018, a black bear strolled into North Dakota from another U.S. state and was later photographed leaning on a local truck.
Although there are no local breeding populations, they can be occasionally seen in some forested areas.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Ohio?
The population of black bears in Ohio is 50-100. Black bears in the state have dramatically increased since the Division of Wildlife began tracking sightings in 1993.
They can be found in forested areas in Washington, Athens, Hocking, and Vinton counties in southeast Ohio and Ashtabula, Geauga Lake, Trumbull, and Tuscarawas counties in the northeast.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Oklahoma?
In southeast Oklahoma, you would find the largest population of black bears. Black bears can be spotted in the state’s eastern half and around the western tip of the Panhandle. The range of black bears has been progressing farther west from the bears’ primary range in southeastern and east-central Oklahoma.
There are approximately 1,300 black bears in the Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma. There is currently no accurate estimation of black bears in the state.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Oregon?
The population of black bears in Oregon is vast and estimated between 25,000-30,000. You can find black bears in forested regions of the Cascade Range and the Blue and Wallowa mountains.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Pennsylvania?
Black bears reside in large forested areas in Pennsylvania. The population size in the state is estimated at 20,000.
Black bears have been seen in all counties in Pennsylvania. Counties in the Northeastern and Northern regions have the most significant amount of bears. However, Philadelphia, Washington, York, Chester, Delaware, Fulton, Lancaster, Bucks, and Beaver have very few black bears.
Black bears are getting bolder in Pennsylvania, with suburban bear sightings on the rise. Sightings of black bears have occurred in every county, and they occupy over three-quarters of the state.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Rhode Island?
There are about 4,500 black bears in Rhode Island, with a population increase of about 10 percent annually. The number of black bears in Rhode island increases almost in line with Connecticut. Black bears migrate from Connecticut to find a good source of food. Black bears have been seen in Washington, Kent, and Providence counties.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in South Carolina?
South Carolina currently has two resident populations of black bears. The first resides in the mountains and upper Piedmont, while the second can be found in the coastal plain, which includes Georgetown, Marion, Horry, Williamsburg, Berkeley, and Charleston counties.
There are currently estimated to be around 1,000 black bears in the state.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in South Dakota?
Where Can You Find Black Bears in South Dakota?
South Dakota has no black bear populations, although bears can sometimes be seen roaming through the state.
However, more sightings have occurred since 2001, but they are still rare.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Tennessee?
Years ago, several black bears roamed Tennessee’s counties; however, the number of black bears in the state reduced after the European settlement. The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has played a significant role in the increased population of black bears.
There are currently two central black bear populations in the state. The first can be found in the northern part of the Cumberland Plateau along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. The second population can be found along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. There are currently about 7,000 black bears in the state.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Vermont?
The black bear is the only species of bear found in Vermont. The population of black bears in Vermont is between 4,600 to 5,700. While black bears are not usually seen in populated areas, the lack of natural food sometimes brings them into contact with residents.
The highest numbers of bears can be found in the central spine of the Green Mountains, from Massachusetts to Canada, and in the northeastern part of Vermont.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Virginia?
Black bears reside mainly in forest habitats in Virginia. Bears can be found in the Piedmont area, the Alleghany Mountains, Blue Ridge, and the Dismal Swamp. The population of black bears in Virginia is 17,000 and can be found in almost all counties.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Washington?
There are many black bears in Washington, with an estimated population of 25,000. They live in diverse areas, including the dry woodlands of the Cascade’s eastern slopes, coastal rainforests, and forests. There is a significant population in Kitsap County. While they can be found in most counties, the interior of the Columbia basin doesn’t support any people.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in West Virginia?
With the State animal of West Virginia being the black bear, it should be no surprise that black bears are found in all 55 counties. There are estimated to be around 8,000 black bears in West Virginia, whereas less than two decades ago, there were fewer than 500.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Wisconsin?
The population of black bears in Wisconsin is estimated at more than 28,000. Bears are becoming more populous throughout the state, although most bears are located in the far northern third of the State.
The lower two-thirds are becoming more populated with bears due to the population increase. Most sightings in the lower counties have been in Sauk, Iowa, Dane, and Grant.
Where Can You Find Black Bears in Wyoming?
Black bears inhabit forested mountainous regions in Wyoming, with populations highest in Northwestern Wyoming. Small densities of black bears inhabit the Laramie Peak, Sierra Madre, Snowy, and Uintaite mountain regions of Southern Wyoming. In Northern Wyoming, the Bighorn Mountains contain a larger and more robust population.
References and Further Reading
NPS.gov – Alabama
ADFG.Alaska.gov – Alaska
FS.usada.gov – Arizona
Onlyinark.com – Arkansas
Wildlife.CA.gov – California
Cpw.state.co.us – Colorado
Portal.ct.gov – Connecticut
A-Z-animals.com – Delaware
Myfwc.com – Florida
Georgiawildlife.com – Georgia
IDFG.Idaho.gov – Idaho
IN.gov – Indiana
Iowadnr.gov – Iowa
Ksoutdoors.com – Kansas
FW.ky.gov – Kentucky
Wlf.Louisiana.gov – Louisiana
Maine.gov – Maine
Dnr.Maryland.gov – Maryland
Mass.gov – Massachusetts
Dnr.state.mi.us – Michigan
Dnr.state.mn.us – Minnesota
Mdwfp.com – Mississippi
Mdc.mo.gov – Missouri
Fieldguide.mt.gov – Montana
Digitalcommons.unl.edu – Nebraska
NDOW.org – Nevada
Visitnh.gov – New Hampshire
Dep.nj.gov – New Jersey
Wildlife.state.NM.US – New Mexico
Dec.NY.gov – New York
NCwildlife.org – North Carolina
GF.ND.gov – North Dakota
Wildlifedepartment.com – Oklahoma
Myodfw.com – Oregon
Pgc.PA.gov – Pennsylvania
Dem.ri.gov – Rhode Island
Dnr.sc.gov – South Carolina
Kotatv.com – South Dakota
TN.gov – Tennessee
Vtfishandwildlife.com – Vermont
Dwr.Virginia.gov – Virginia
WDFW.wa.gov – Washington
Extension.wvu.edu – West Virginia
Dnr.Wisconsin.gov – Wisconsin
Wgfd.gov – Wyoming
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.