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Home > Programs > Bureau of Natural Resources > Division of Law Enforcement > Bears
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Living with Bears

American Black Bears
Fact Sheet
American Black Bear
Ursus americanus

General Information/Do's and Don'ts

With neighboring states having established populations of black bear, Rhode Island now has black bears within its borders.

The black bear is the one bear species which seems to have the greatest capacity to live in close proximity to man. It is the most wide spread bear in North America. Adult black bears range from 35 to 40 inches tall when on all fours and have a length of 4½ to 6 feet. The weight of a black bear ranges from 100 to 600 pounds and is highly variable. Male black bears are usually about one-third larger than a female. Black bears are not active predators. While members of the order Carnivora, they have evolved into primarily vegetarians with accompanying changes in their digestive tracks and dental structure. Black bears seek foods that will return the highest percentage of nutritional and protein value for the least energy expenditure. Bears will eat whatever is in season at a given time. They will eat anything that is edible. 75% of their diets consists of vegetable matter including berries, flowers, grasses, tubers and roots, and nuts. The remaining portion consists of animal matter such as carrion (dead animals, road kill), fish, frogs, ants and other insects, honey, and a variety of small mammals (e.g. mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, etc.). Bears like to feed in the cool of the morning or evening. They will seek shade in the dense underbrush during the heat of the day.

Black bears are extremely intelligent. This intelligence is exhibited through their curiosity, exploratory behavior and excellent memory. Black bears do establish home ranges but are not known to strictly defend them. The size of their range is determined by the food available in that area. Black bear ranges vary from a square mile up to 100 square miles.

The probability of a black bear attacking a human is extremely low. Black bears try to avoid humans and are considered non-aggressive except in situations where they are protecting young, protecting themselves, or when they are injured.

At this point, DEM is leaving the bears alone. If a bear becomes a problem, steps will then be taken to curb that bear's behavior. The mere presence of a bear does not warrant its removal. We are encouraging people not to feed the bears. Bears that are fed associate people and homes with food and could become problem bears. DEM Environmental Police Officers are working closely with local police to keep track of bear sightings and complaints. EPO's are educating people in the area of sightings to coexist with bears.

If you see a bear, call the Division of Enforcement at 1-401-222-3070.

Do's and Don'ts

Bears are attracted to pet food, birdfeeders, garbage, fruit trees, and compost piles.
DO make birdfeeders inaccessible by discontinuing the feedings of birds from April to November or by hanging feeders at least ten feet high and away from trees.
DO place garbage cans inside a garage or shed. Ammonia added to the trash makes it unpalatable to the bears.
DO clean grills right after use and store away when possible.
DON'T leave pet food out over night.
DON'T add meat or sweets to compost piles.
DON'T feed the bears.

DO protect your livestock with electric fencing.
DO place animals in barns at night when possible.
DO protect beehives with electric fencing and secure the hives from being knocked over.
DO secure feeds in shed or barn.

DO keep food secured in your vehicle or suspended high off the ground between two trees.
DO keep campsite clean of food scraps.
DO make loud noises and wave arms if you see a bear while camping or hiking.
DO keep dogs on a leash so they won't harass the bears.

DON'T run if you see a bear while hiking- walk away slowly.

For General Information 222-6800 • After Hours Emergencies 222-3070 • Disclaimer

rev. 4/29/13