Black Bear Dispersal

We all grow up and, eventually, move out of our parents’ homes. Did you know that wild animals aren’t so different from you or I? As they enter into adulthood, they must also leave their parents to find a territory of their own. This is known as dispersal. Dispersal benefits wildlife populations by reducing competition for resources and by preventing genetic issues such as inbreeding depression.

Female black bears (Ursus americanus) typically occupy smaller territories than males, ranging from 2.5 to 10 square miles. Male black bear territories, however, range from 10-59 square miles and often overlap several females. Young cubs are reliant on their mothers until they are around 17 months of age. At this point, when the mother is ready to once again mate, generally in May or June, the cubs are “encouraged” to move on.

Females black bears are philopatric, meaning that they stay close to where they were born. With that in mind, however, the territories of females seldom overlap. Even though they might be close by, mothers and daughters may rarely encounter one another. Males, on the other hand, have been known to travel over 130 miles before establishing a territory of their own. Most male black bears will have settled down into its within 4-7 years.


Denise Peterson

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