Above video: Find out how Game and Fish is working to reduce bear-human conflicts in the White Mountains – and steps people can take to help.
Description and Habits
The black bear is the
only bear species still found in Arizona. It is
the smallest and most widely distributed North
American bear. It lives in most forest, woodland
and chaparral habitats, and desert riparian areas.
Black bears generally roam an area of 7 to 15
Fur color varies, including black,
brown, cinnamon, and dark blond
Weighs 125-400 pounds with males being
larger than females
3 to 3 ½ feet tall when on
all four feet
4 ½ to 6 ¼ feet long
Short, inconspicuous tail
Produces two to three cubs in January
or or early February
Lives up to 25 years in the wild
Most active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular)
Eats primarily acorns, berries, insects
and cactus fruits
Signs of activity include large tracks
with claw marks (the hind print is somewhat
like a human’s footprint), somewhat
round droppings, digging, large overturned
rocks and logs, and garbage from dumpsters
or cans scattered good distances
Threatened or stressed adults will
make sounds, including woofing, hissing,
popping of teeth and grunting
with Humans and Pets
Conflicts associated with black bears
include public safety concerns and possible
property damage. Most conflicts are the
result of people unintentionally feeding
bears, most often by allowing them access
to household garbage or bird feeders.
They raid dumpsters, garbage cans and
grills looking for an easy meal. They
might enter a building by breaking screen
doors and windows to look for food they
smell. Although uncommon, black bear attacks
on humans occasionally occur, especially
in areas where they come into frequent
contact with people and their food.
Them? Bears may visit areas of human
use because they find food. Food can include
unsecured garbage, birdseed, pet food,
fruit trees and some gardens. Drought,
wildfire and urban development can cause
bears to roam farther in search of new
food sources. Young bears sometimes travel
long distances in search of an area not
already occupied by another bear.
What Should I
Do If I See a Bear?
Black bears should always be considered
unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
A black bear will usually detect you and
leave the area before you notice, unless
the bear has been conditioned to people
and their food. If you live in black bear
country, take responsibility for not attracting
them. Always work with your neighbors
to achieve a consistent solution to the
problem situation, and keep in mind that
doing a combination of things is better
than doing just one.
To discourage a
black bear, immediately:
Alter your route to avoid a bear in
Make yourself as large and imposing
as possible if the bear continues to
approach. Stand upright and wave your
arms, jacket or other items. Make loud
noises, such as yelling, whistles, and
banging pots and pans.
Do not run and never play dead.
Give the bear a chance to leave the
If the bear does not leave, stay calm,
continue facing it, and slowly back
If a bear is in your yard, scare it
away from inside the house, keeping
the door closed.
In an emergency: Black
bears usually avoid people, but if they start to
associate people with food they may become aggressive.
On the rare occasion that a black bear becomes aggressive,
do the following:
If a black bear attacks,
fight back with everything in your power – fists,
sticks, rocks and E.P.A. registered bear
Arizona Game and Fish Department personnel
remove bears that present an imminent
threat to human safety or when they
are in a situation where they cannot
safely escape on their own. Call 911,
Arizona Game and Fish Department office,
or Arizona Game and Fish Department
Radio Dispatch at (623) 236-7201.
is usually a last resort:
Bears can be common at high elevations
where food is plentiful. Different bears
will visit the same area if attractants
are not removed. Bears that must be removed
are relocated or may have to be destroyed
if they are considered too dangerous,
have lost their fear of humans, or continue
to get into conflicts with people. Removing
any wild animal is traumatic for the animal,
and usually can be prevented. Follow the
tips below to allow bears and humans to
coexist while avoiding negative interactions.
To prevent further
Don't feed or give water to black
bears. Be aware that human behaviors,
such as feeding other animals, can attract
Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten
pet food between feedings.
Remove garbage regularly or keep in
Remove other enticing food sources,
such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet
liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs
located near buildings.
Remove brush and cover around homes
and corrals, creating a 50-yard barrier.
Fences, lighting and dogs have not
been found to be effective, long-term
detterents. Bears are good climbers,
so to reduce a bear's ability to get
over a fence, it should be at least
6 feet tall and constructed of non-climbable
Possible Health Concerns
Canine distemper -- This viral disease consists
of fever, loss of appetite, coughing, and eye and
Laws and Policies
Black bears are top-level
predators capable of killing or seriously
injuring humans, and the department is committed
to public education to help people learn
how to behave responsibly and live safely
in proximity to bears.
Black bears are classified as big
game animals. They may not be killed
without a valid hunting license except
in self-defense or where livestock has
been killed. See Arizona Game and Fish
State law prohibits firing
a gun within a quarter-mile of an occupied
residence or building without the permission
of the owner.
Check your local city
ordinances, but most cities ban shooting
firearms within city limits. Some cities
ban the use of slingshots, BB guns, air guns,
Refer to ARS-17-239 on wildlife depredation
and Arizona Game and Fish Department
Regulations for more information.