Be Bear Aware

Black Bear Information

Whether you are hiking, camping, or living in an area with bears, it is important to be informed on bear safety to keep you and your family safe.

Seeing a wild black bear is an exciting and memorable experience. When visiting, recreating or living in or near black bear country, it is always important to be aware that you may encounter a bear at any time. Most conflicts between people and black bears are the result of people approaching and feeding bears, or allowing a bear to obtain garbage and pet/livestock feeds. Learning the appropriate Black Bear Safety Techniques will minimize the possibility of an encounter.

You are responsible for your safety and the safety of the bears. Please help keep our black bears wild by not approaching or feeding them.

  • Food Storage Order

    A black bear in the woods.

    In 2008, the Cibola National Forest issued a food storage order to protect bears.

  • Staying Safe Around Bears

    A black bear hangs in a tree in the woods.

    For more information about being safe around bears, visit

  • Guide to Living with Wildlife

    A black bear and her cubs play in the river.

    This guide to living with wildlife in the Sandia and Manzano Mountains contains tips on living with bears, visiting bear country, and black bears of New Mexico.

Black Bears at a Glance

Black bears can be found across most of North America, whereas grizzly/brown bears are found only in the northwestern states, Alaska and western Canada. Black bears that reside in the Southwest primarily live in the pine forests and chaparral(brush) zones, and occasionally wander into lower elevations.

  • Colors: Black, brown, blond, or cinnamon.
  • Size: Adults measure about 3 feet at shoulders and 5 to 6 feet when standing upright.
  • Weight: Adults weigh 125 to 425 pounds. Males are generally larger than females.
  • Lifespan: Approximately 20 years for wild bears.
  • Eyesight: Similar to humans.
  • Sense of Smell: Excellent, can span miles.
  • Attributes: Very agile, climb trees well, good swimmers, and can run as fast as 35 miles per hour.

Healthy wild black bears rely on berries, insects, vegetation, fish and carrion to survive. They generally mate during May and early June. They hibernate primarily due to lack of food, usually between November and April, though this varies. Healthy mothers produce 1 to 2 cubs every 2-3 years.