Biggest Black Bears in the World
There are several determining factors that play a role in the size of a black bear. Then there are several different points of views as to what defines a “big” bear. Some people go by weight, others by length, and then there’s the Boone and Crockett Club which defines a big black bear by the total sum of length and width of its skull. The overall size of a bear can vary based on age, sex, time of year and overall health. Genetics, abundance or kinds of food sources, competition, hunting pressure, etc all determine where the biggest black bears live.
Stories about big black bears
I’ve read several stories about the largest black bears recorded but a lot of them are unsubstantiated. There was a 880 pound bear in North Carolina, and a 830 pound New Jersey bear shot in 2011. Minnesota supposedly had a 876 pound one, and Pennsylvania was rumored to have six 800 pounders killed in the last fifteen years. There was “The Cattle Killer” shot in 1921 on the Moqui Indian Reservation in Arizona that they say weighed in at 899 pounds. There was one in New Brunswick in 1972 that supposedly weighed 902 pounds dressed. That’s an almost 1,100 pound bear! While stories like these are fun, I like to look at the facts when planning black bear hunts.
Learn how to judge a trophy bear
If you want to take a big bear, you’re going to need to be able to field judge them. Black bears have broad heads and narrow muzzles. Females’ faces are slender and more pointed than males. When you see a bear flip over a boulder with a single fore leg, he’s usually a pretty good bear.
Another way to tell if a bear is a good bear is to look at the head and ears first. The smaller the ears look and the farther apart they seem, the better the bear. If you can envision an imaginary upside down triangle on the bear’s head going down to its nose, and all sides are equal, then it’s a mature bear.
Look at length of legs, chest size and how big the head is in comparison to the body. If his head and ears look small in comparison to his body he’s a giant. If his legs look thick top to bottom, that’s a good sign. A boar’s leg will look as big below the knee as above the knee. A sow’s legs will have a V shape from top to bottom.
A young bear’s head will look big and its ears will look huge and almost touch. Young bears also move at a quick pace and seem skittish and clumsy. Large bears move slowly, swaying side to side with a big belly and an air of confidence about them.
Really big bears will have a crease down the center of their forehead, and often scars on their faces. A giant boar can also appear so big it looks like he’s dragging his belly when he moves. If the neck looks almost as big in front of the shoulder as his body does behind the shoulder, he’s a shooter.
Where to hunt the biggest black bears
The world record black bear in the Boone and Crockett all time records book was picked up in Utah in 1975 and scored 23 10/16″. There are 1,790 entries in the record books meeting the minimum of 21 inches. 619 of those entries were in the last 10 years. That means that 34.5% of all entries in the all time Boone and Crockett record books for black bears happened in the last decade.
- 26% of those entries were from Wisconsin – Wisconsin is responsible for 24 of the top 100 black bears of all time, and 28 of the 100 biggest black bears in the last 10 years.
- 13% of the entries were from Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania boasts 29 of the top 100 largest black bears of all time. 22 of the top 100 in the last 10 years.
* I initially wanted to talk about black bears in all the different states and provinces, but if you’re looking for the biggest black bears in the World then Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are the best choices, and it’s not even close.
by Casey Jensen
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