Do Black Bears Stay in the Same Area?

Between one denning season and the next, black bears are constantly on the move to find more food. 

However, how far they roam and whether they will return to the same area depends on a few factors.

Do Black Bears Stay in the Same Area?

Black bears are not territorial animals, although they usually have a specific home range. It means that they stay in the same area, as long as there is enough food.

Home ranges of black bears vary from 10 to even 120 square miles depending on season and food sources. Male black bears usually have more extensive home ranges than females, and they often overlap with many home ranges of female black bears.

The home range of a black bear is usually measured by the distance it covers over the course of a year. An adult male black bear can cover around 120 square miles during one year. 

Sows with cubs stay in a much smaller area, usually between 12-15 square miles, and female without cubs moves around even less, covering only about 10 square miles per year.

Young black bears, especially males, who don’t have established home ranges, will travel great distances in order to find the perfect location, often crossing paths, and home ranges, with other bears.

Seasons also influence black bears’ reasons to stay around or move elsewhere.

Do Black Bears Stay in the Same Area

Spring

When the food sources are still scarce in early spring, black bears rarely stay in the same area. They tend to roam a lot each day in search of sufficient nutrition after weight loss during months of hibernation.

Their constant need for food often pushes bears to roam, especially male black bears who need to put up weight quickly before rutting season.

Therefore, they don’t stay in the same immediate area for a long time but circle around their usual home range.

Black bear rutting season comes in late spring to early summer, and male black bears can roam great distances in search of females.

Summer

When everything is in full bloom, black bears have more food at their paws, and they don’t need to roam too far. The better the area’s quality, the smaller the range of black bears, as they don’t have the need to move far to find food. 

As soon as the breeding season is over and the food becomes the primary focus again, black bears will move only as far as they have to in order to find food.

The biggest problem for a black bear arises when there is insufficient food available in their usual area. Both male and female black bears can roam well outside their home ranges during harsh times, like poor mast year, to find better food sources. 

Fall

During the feeding frenzy before winter, black bears are known to extend their home ranges and often cross to the home range of another bear.

One of the main reasons a black bear might move away from an area is when there is not a lot of available food or too much competition. 

When the temperatures drop, and bears get ready for denning in fall, the need for a perfect and quiet location may also drive bears to roam more.

Winter

Wintertime is usually a hibernation time. Although black bears in milder climates are known sometimes to wake up in the middle of denning, they usually don’t stray far away from their den.

How Far Do Black Bears Roam Daily?

Do Black Bears Stay in the Same Area

During a typical day, black bears roam for food within their range. Females travel around 2-6 miles a day, and males 8-15 miles.

As stated before, they don’t stay in the same immediate area for long, but they also don’t leave their usual site unless they lack food, shelter, or are threatened.

The most significant distances are covered when male black bears search for females during the breeding season.

Occasionally, when the times are tough, black bears can roam for dozens of miles per day in search of food, leaving their home ranges and crossing paths with other black bears. 

Usually, the journey of a black bear is measured over the year. The furthest registered journey was 126 miles during the span of a year. 

Do Black Bears Come Back to the Same Areas?

Black bears have amazing memories and an even better built-in GPS. They always know where they are in relation to the best food plots.

Often when the food is scarce in a black bear’s home range, it will come back to where it found plenty of food before, even if it means crossing paths with other bears.

An adult black bear also remembers where its mother took it to find food when it was young. Sometimes, when the year is not so favorable, they will return to the same places they remember from their youth.

It is also bad news for people because once a black bear discovers an easy way to get food, it will come back looking for more. 

If you ever happen to see a black bear in your backyard, you have to move inside, or better secure every possible food source the black bear investigated, like rubbish bins, scrap piles, BBQs, etc.

Final Thoughts

Black bears usually stay in the same area, whether it is 10 or 120 square miles of their home range, providing there is enough food for them to gain weight after winter and prepare for the next one.

However, depending on the season or whether they are female with cubs or males getting ready for the breeding season, they can travel some distances around their territory roaming for food.

One thing worth remembering is that bears always remember where they had a feast before because there is a big chance they will come back to the same spot for more food.

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