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The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most widely distributed bear species. Black bears are omnivores with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes they become attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food. The American black bear is the world's most common bear species.

It is listed by the IUCN as a "least concern" species, due to its widespread distribution and a large global population estimated to be twice that of all other bear species combined. Along with the brown bear, it is one of only two of the eight modern bear species not considered globally threatened with extinction by the IUCN. American black bears often mark trees using their teeth and claws as a form of communication with other bears, a behavior common to many species of bears.

The current range of black bears in the United States is constant throughout most of the northeast, and down in the Appalachian Mountains almost continuously from Maine to north Georgia, the northern midwest, the Rocky Mountain region, the west coast and Alaska. However it becomes increasingly fragmented or absent in other regions. Despite this, black bears in those areas seems to have expanded their range during the last decade, such as with recent sightings in Ohio and southern Indiana, though these probably do not represent stable breeding populations yet.

The overall population of black bears in the United States has been estimated to range between 339,000 and 465,000, though this excludes populations from Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, whose population sizes are unknown. In the state of California, there are an estimated 30,000 black bears, making it the largest black bear population in the Contiguous United States.

Throughout their range, habitats preferred by American black bears have a few shared characteristics. They are often found in areas with relatively inaccessible terrain, thick understory vegetation and large quantities of edible material (especially masts). 

The skulls of American black bears are broad, with narrow muzzles and large jaw hinges. Females tend to have more slender and pointed faces than males. Their claws are typically black or grayish brown. The claws are short and rounded, being thick at the base and tapering to a point. Claws from both hind and front legs are almost identical in length, though the foreclaws tend to be more sharply curved. The paws of the species are relatively sizeable, with a rear foot length of 13.7 to 22.5 The soles of the feet are black or brownish, and are naked, leathery and deeply wrinkled. The ears are small and rounded, and are set well back on the head.

Black bears are highly dexterous, being capable of opening screw-top jars and manipulating door latches. They also have great physical strength. They have been known to turn over flat-shaped rocks weighing 310 to 325 pounds (141 to 147 kg) by flipping them over with a single foreleg. They move in a rhythmic, sure-footed way and can run at speeds of 25–30 mph (40–50 km/h).

Sounds expressing aggression include growls, woofs, snorts, bellows and roars. Sounds expressing contentment include mumbles, squeaks and pants. A black bear has better eyesight and a better sense of hearing compared to humans. Their keenest sense is the sense of smell, which is about seven times greater than a dog's. American black bears tend to be territorial and non-gregarious in nature. However, at abundant food sources (i.e. spawning salmon or garbage dumps) black bears may congregate and dominance hierarchies form, with the largest, most powerful males dominating the most fruitful feeding spots. They mark their territories by rubbing their bodies against trees and clawing at the bark.

Black bears are excellent and strong swimmers, doing so for pleasure and to feed (largely on fish). Black bears climb trees regularly to feed, escape enemies and to hibernate. Black bears may be active at any time of the day or night, although mainly forage by night. Bears living near human habitations tend to be more extensively nocturnal and bears living near brown bears tend to be more extensively.