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The Largest Black Bears on the Planet

North Carolina’s Coastal Black Bears

A little known Bear Fact is that coastal North Carolina is home to the largest black bears on the planet! How big are they? North Carolina’s coastal black bears average 50-100 lbs or more than their cousins. The current World Record black bear is an 880 lb. giant from Eastern North Carolina recorded in 1998. There have been more than a dozen bears over 700lbs recorded and dozens more over 600lbs harvested in the coastal region of North Carolina. In most of their North American range, an adult female black bear weighs an average of 150 lbs and an adult male weighs an average of 250 lbs. Coastal female, (sow), bears sometimes weigh 300lbs or more with the state record sow, (from Washington County), recorded in 2007 at 445lbs.

There are three major reasons our bears get to such large proportions. First of all, consider that the diet of bears in most areas consists of mostly berries, nuts, grasses, insect larvae, and carrion, (black bears are perhaps the least carnivorous of the carnivores). By contrast, coastal North Carolina bears supplement their normal bear diet by gorging themselves on high protein agricultural crops growing in the fertile soils of the coastal plain. Their favorite of these foods include wheat, corn, and peanuts.

The second reason these coastal black bear grow so big is the mild climate. While bears in most of the continent hibernate for long periods of time and can even go 7 months without eating or eliminating waste, (an amazing fact in itself). Coastal North Carolina bears enjoy mild winters and have short periods of inactivity, particularly during spells of inclement weather. Sows den up for a short time and give birth to their cubs in January, but compared with bears in colder climates, North Carolina's coastal black bears spend many more days actively enjoying the mild weather and abundant food supply!

The third factor in producing such enormous black bears is habitat. Much of coastal North Carolina is sparsely populated by humans. The major features of the coastal plain are vast timber holdings, equally vast farms, but more importantly for bears are the extensive swamps. According to the North Carolina State Bear Biologist, the Albemarle-Pamilco Peninsula has the highest black bear densities in the world! The peninsula also contains the largest wetland complex in the State and the largest pocosin swamp in the world. In addition, much of this area is incorporated into two large refuges, (Alligator NWR and Pocosin Lakes NWR), totaling well over 200,000 acres! Is it any wonder that coastal North Carolina is home the world's largest black bears?

Not only are these coastal bears huge, but they are also abundant! The largest concentration of black bears in the southeastern United States is on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula of North Carolina. There are an estimated 8,000 bears in this area. Black bears are fascinating animals that have captured man’s attention through the millennia. It is also interesting to note that black bears have the largest range of any large four-legged mammal in North America other than whitetail deer. They are found in 40 of the 50 states and all of the Canadian provinces.

Some people find bears intimidating or even scary, while others find them exciting and entertaining to watch. Black bears are highly intelligent, curious, and at times comical. But wherever they are spotted, the sightings become a topic of conversation. In North Carolina, black bears are a symbol of The Wild. They remind us that despite our civilized, computerized, and technological take-over of this land, there remains a portion undisturbed by man and populated with God's creatures.