Black Bears

10,000 -plus

We are working to reduce bear-human conflicts and have done so successfully across more than 10,000 square miles of North America.


Black bears across North America face similar conservation issues, especially in places which historically contained black bears and other large carnivores but have now seen a rapid expansion of urban and exurban areas.

Most of the challenges black bears face in North America come from humans. Consistently available human food and garbage creates the perfect conditions for human-bear conflict in both backcountry and human populated areas. A highly intelligent species, black bears rapidly learn where food is available. This often results in dangerous conditions for bears and humans alike, frequently with lethal consequences for the bears.

Our Strategies

WCS works to reduce conflicts and promote co-existence between bears and people in order to conserve a healthy bear population in places such as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In the western U.S., WCS works to understand and mitigate human-bear conflicts and to promote co-existence in places where natural areas and development meet, known as wildland-urban interface, in the Lake Tahoe Basin. WCS research demonstrated that bears' behavior can change dramatically with year-round access to trash. Scientists observed bears become more nocturnal to people while trash-raiding. In fact, some urban bears will even avoid hibernation altogether when easy access to human food and trash is available.

WCS research and conservation, in collaboration with partners, resulted in new bear-resistant dumpster laws in both California and Nevada and more than $3 million in bear-resistant garbage cans and dumpsters.

As a result of collective efforts like this, a once negative population growth rate for bears in urban-interface areas became an average annual growth rate of 16 percent for more than a decade, and re-colonization of historic ranges in the mountains of the Great Basin ensued. More than 500 black bears can now be found in an area where they have been absent for more than 80 years.

Related Regions

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