Discover the Largest Black Bear Ever Caught in Arizona

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: January 23, 2023
© iStock.com/Mark Lee
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American black bears are the most widely distributed bears in North America, and their range extends from Canada to Mexico. Arizona is one of the states in the United States with bear populations.

Due to the healthy population of the large animals, bear hunting is common in Arizona but regulated to preserve the black bear numbers. Hunters set out each year for bear meat, fur, and records. What is the size of the largest black bear caught in Arizona? This article answers.

Meet Arizona’s Black Bear

animals unique to North America: American black bear
The American black bear is the only bear species in Arizona.

©iStock.com/Lynn_Bystrom

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The black bear is the smallest of the bear species in North America and the only bear species in Arizona. According to news reports, grizzly bears once existed in Arizona close to a hundred years ago, but the last one died in 1935. Arizona’s black bear population is believed to be about 2,000 to 2,500 and is widespread across the state.

These native animals are found all year in Arizona. They are still relatively active during winter as they do not hibernate like other animals. Black bears are often solitary except for mothers who stay with their young.  

How Big Are Black Bears?

The image that pops into mind when thinking of bears is that of aggressive furry giants with large sharp teeth and claws. However, black bears differ from the stereotype a little. They have a heavy build, short curved claws, and short tails. Adult black bears can grow up to six feet and weigh 600 pounds. According to Arizona Game and Fish Department, American black bears in Arizona are smaller. Arizona’s male bears can weigh 350 pounds, while females can reach 250 pounds.   

Despite the obvious assumptions caused by their names, black bears are not all black; some are blonde, brown, and cinnamon. Albinism is rare among black bear populations. The albino bears have pink noses, yellow eyes, and white and/or cream fur.

Black bears mostly walk on their four legs, with their hind limbs longer than their forelimbs. Like humans, these wild mammals have five toes on each foot. Despite their bulky size, leaner bears can exceed speeds of 30mph in short distances. That makes them faster than the fastest human, Usain Bolt, who peaked at 27.44 mph.  

What Do Black Bears Eat?

What Do Black Bears Eat
Black bears eat grass, mammals, fish, and fruit.

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Contrary to popular belief, American black bears are omnivores. While black bears eat meat and can hunt animals such as livestock, fish, and carrion, the larger percentage of their diet consists of fruits and vegetation. They feed on berries, leaves, cactus fruit, roots, flowers, etc.

Given their massive sizes, black bears consume a lot of food daily. The availability of food sources in a bear’s habitat can determine how large the bears in the area can grow. According to the Florida Fish and Conservation Council, an adult male black bear consumes about 5,000 calories per day.    

During fall, these bears increase their calories to more than twice in anticipation of winter. With the cover of the snow comes the scarcity of food for these animals. So, these proactive animals eat about 20,000 calories daily and can devote over 18 hours daily to foraging.   

Where Can Black Bears Be Found in Arizona?

American black bears are considered shy and curious animals. According to Tonto National Forest, they are often found in chaparral forests, desert riparian areas, and woodlands at elevations of 4,000 to 10,000 feet. These large foragers usually roam about seven to 50 square miles and often avoid open grasslands. Scientists believe that black bears avoid open fields to avoid encountering larger grizzly bears.

Common sightings of black bears have been reported in the Arizona White Mountains region, Mazatzal Mountains, and Pinaleno Mountain.

What is the Largest Black Bear Caught in Arizona?

The largest black bear ever caught in Arizona weighed about 880 pounds. However, some reports claim that the largest black bear in Arizona was an 899-pound bear that was shot in December 1921. The bear was tagged a cattle killer and was shot down on the Moqui Reservation.

In recent years, the hunting of bears in Arizona has been adjusted and regulated, so hunters have one-bag limits and cannot trap bears. The bear hunting period is about a month-long, and only licensed hunters can hunt down bears.

What is the Largest Black Bear in History?

black bear
The largest bear in history weighed 1,100 pounds.

©iStock.com/Brittany Crossman

Despite the average weight of black bears, some individuals exceed the norm. The largest black bear in history was estimated to have weighed about 1,100 pounds while alive. The giant bear was shot in November 1972 in New Brunswick, Canada.

The world record bear weighed more than the largest black bear in captivity, which weighed about 1,000 pounds. Other notable mentions include an 830-pound black bear shot in New Jersey, an 880-pound bear shot in Pennsylvania in 2010, and the 812-pound black bear shot in Manitoba.

Up Next:

The Largest Black Bear in History

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Black Bear on road Mt Rainier, Washington
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