Not-So Black Bears

News & Tips: Not-So Black Bears


 NotSoBlackBears blog
Bears in North America aren't always black — they come in a variety of colors, such as this cinammon bear. (photo courtesy of Venture North Outfitting)

Black bears are one of the most regal animals to roam the wilds of North America. They are also one of the most widespread, with huntable populations stretching from coast to coast in Canada and most of the contiguous 48 United States, plus Alaska. Having said that, black bears are not always black. If you're looking to add a bear to your trophy room that sports a coat of a different color, here's what you need to know.

Although the majority of the North American bear population is black, these bears actually come in a variety of colors other than black, including brown, blonde, cinnamon, white and various shades in between. The reasons for this are principally evolutionary and genetics, with the bears in certain areas of the continent being exclusively black, or close to it, while in other areas "color phase" bears may make up as much as three-quarters of the local population.

For the most part, populations that live in dense, dark, forested habitats tend to be black, while those that inhabit more open areas often have a significant non-black component. Populations that are isolated or cut off from genetic influence from neighboring areas, such as are found on islands like Vancouver Island, also tend to be exclusively black.


In Canada, the four western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are your best bet for a color-phase bruin. Tags are available through outfitters, and all four provinces have both spring and fall seasons. Laws vary with regard to the use of bait or hounds.

British Columbia

While the coastal mainland and neighboring islands have almost exclusively black bruins, much of the rest of the province produces high numbers of non-black varieties. Outfitters such as BC Trophy Mountain Outfitters and Bearcat Outfitters take good specimens every year.


The western and northern parts area of Alberta produce good numbers of color-phase bears, with Venture North Outfitting and McKinnon & Co. Outfitters being good producers.


Northern Saskatchewan is the place to be. Outfitters to check out include Buck Paradise and Makwa River Outfitters.


The western and northern areas of this province are your best choice and outfitters such as Big Sand Lake Lodge have the bears.

United States

In the U.S., the West and Northwest are the areas to focus on, as bears in the rest of the country are predominantly black. Parts of Washington, Oregon and California, along with Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Utah are your best choices, but be aware that many of these areas require tags to be drawn through a lottery and, again, laws vary with regard to baiting and hunting with dogs. Notable outfitters include:

New Mexico — New Mexico Professional Big Game Hunting

Idaho — Bighorn Outfitters, Heaven's Gate Outfitters and Table Mountain Outfitters

Wyoming — Non-Typical Outfitters

Reputable booking agents such as Jack Atcheson and Sons or The Hunting Consortium can assist with outfitters in other states.
Good hunting.