Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

In no uncertain terms, hunting Black Bear in Alberta is exhilarating. Over the years, Alberta has acquired an exceptional reputation for Black Bear hunting. European hunters discovered the quality and size of Alberta’s Black Bears, and the province’s reputation has now spread around the world.

During the 1970s a few outfitters pioneered hunting by boat on some major Alberta rivers, especially in the Peace River country. Many Black Bears were spotted on the open grass slopes of these rivers in the spring. At the same time, North American hunters discovered good hunting wherever there were forest openings covered with grasses and clover. Black Bears have always been a common big game animal in Alberta’s forests.  With various habitats across the province, a bear can be sustained in most regions of Alberta.

An increase in oil and gas exploration over the years has facilitated Black Bear hunting. In the clearings and cut lines created by logging or oilfields, there are a number of legumes and grasses bears eat. A Black Bear can often be spotted frolicking among the clover, oat, and wheat fields near a forest or river valley. The food supply generated by these crops make a nutritious choice for the bear, and an interesting hunt for visitors to the region.

There are a number of areas in the province that still remain unscathed by hunting and exploration. Generally the bears in these zones have not seen humans and are a little more apprehensive when entering a baited area.

Several Black Bears hunted in Alberta have broken records with Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young. Several of these record-breaking bears were of color phase. Alberta boasts 50% colored Black Bears.

Alberta outfitters offer different hunting experiences to meet various hunting styles, expectations, and price ranges. In Alberta, Black Bears can be hunted in spring or fall, although most hunting is done in the spring (as single-species, dedicated bear hunts).

Black Bear hunting in Alberta during spring is truly a fascinating experience. You will see geese, cranes, and other waterfowl overhead, and the vibrant new growth of berries and grasses will surround you. In various parts of the province, you may see wolves, marten, or other elusive animals. Spring hunts also provide the chance to enjoy pleasant weather; however, come with warm clothes in case the temperature drops.

The baiting of Black Bear is popular in Alberta, particularly in the boreal forest and parkland regions. This method became available to hunters in the late 1980s. Recent studies indicate that bear baiting helps promote the survival of sows and cubs, and it decreases the number of human/bear conflicts.

Baiting requires setting up ground blinds or tree stands within close range of the bait.  You can often reach these stands by an all-terrain vehicle, boat, or 4x4. Most stands are closer than 40 yards from the bait, which allows for a close determination of the bear’s size and hide quality. Baiting is advantageous for bow hunters who are close to the bait.  Bow hunters will enjoy good success and lots of excitement by hunting over bait.

Spot and stalk hunts may also prove successful. These hunts are generally conducted among openings of forest or on open slopes in river valleys. Any area with an abundance of green grass or clover is promising.

In autumn, Black Bear hunts are available as combination hunts with another big game animal. Baiting, and spot and stalk hunting, can be as successful in the fall as in spring.

Whether hunting with a bow or rifle, the hunter should bring a weapon that he has practiced with and that feels comfortable. If you intend to hunt from a tree stand, it is recommended that shooting practice is conducted from an angle that resembles the hunt, to ensure a clean shot of the animal.

As with any other hunt, it is necessary to be completely prepared for the experience. Questioning the outfitter about current weather patterns and bear movement in a particular area is always a good idea.  This will allow the hunter to have a full understanding of the hunt he will participate in.

With a history of world-class outfitters and guides, a two-bear limit, two seasons of hunting opportunities, and—most notably—one of the largest bear populations in North America, it’s easy to see why Alberta has become a popular destination for Black Bear hunters.


Alberta Top 3

Top 3 in Alberta: BLACK BEAR
Score Date Owner
22 9/16 1997 Jason Johansson
22 7/16 1999 Dan B. Pence
22 5/16 1983 Darren Daniel

View Top Ten

Black Bear

Ursus americanus


Wild Cattle Family (Bovidae)


Size: 135-175 cm
Weight: 100-150 kg


Unlike it's larger and more infamous cousin, the black bear is actually far more wide ranging and in most areas, also more common. Most visitors to the Rockies expect the black bear to be, as its name implies, black. In reality, black bears can be any colour from black to white. Cinnamon and blonde coloured bears are quite common in the Rockies.

To differentiate black bears from grizzlies, look at the shoulders. Grizzlies have a distinctive shoulder hump, while black bears lack this hump. From a distance, the lack of a shoulder hump is one of the easiest ways to differentiate the two species. When you look at the face, the forehead of black bears is similar to a dogs, forming an almost straight line from the forehead to the tip of the nose. Grizzlies have a slightly dished in face.


Black bears are found across most of Canada, and in isolated pockets in the northern and western United States. They are found throughout both the Canadian and American Rockies.


The diet of the black bear is almost exclusively composed of plants with a small amount of meat added to supplement their diet. Most of this meat is primarily composed of carrion, with very little in the way of fresh kill. Bears are not important predators, rather preferring to scavenge on carrion. Through the course of the season, they move through their range, looking for young succulent plants to feed upon. In spring, they can often be seen along side highways munching on dandelions. Later in the season, they reappear to feed on plentiful supplies of buffaloberries


Mating takes place in the spring, but like the grizzly bear, they experience delayed implantation, with the fertilized egg floating freely in the uterus for up to six months. Come autumn, if the female is in healthy condition, the egg will implant and begin to develop. The sow gives birth to a tiny cub (often twins) during the winter siesta. The cubs remain with their mother through their first season, and will den with her that winter. Generally, the cubs are evicted in their second season. This restricts reproduction to every second year.

Notes: While black bears may be commonly seen along highways in the mountains, we must remember that they are wild animals. Please avoid the temptation to approach for photographs.