Can Bears Climb Trees? 13 Stunning Facts About Bears

Black Bear resting in a tree

Many of us know how terrifying it can be to look outside your kitchen window and see a black bear staring back at you from your very own backyard. But, if you take the time to think about these hidden creatures, you’ll realize that you don’t really know all too much about them. They’re quite interesting creatures after all!

So, can bears climb trees? Yes, bears can climb trees thanks to their sharp claws and strong grip. Younger bears have an easier time climbing trees because they have smaller claws. As bears grow bigger, they have a hard time grasping branches and pulling themselves high into the treetops. 

In this article, we’re going to cover 13 stunning facts about bears that you probably never knew about! If you have any interest in any kind of bear at all, keep reading!

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The Different Bear Species

If you live in the city or in the suburbs, the only place you’ve probably ever seen a bear was at the zoo. What you might not realize is that bears are quite popular in many regions of the United States. In fact, there are three bear species that are native to the states!

If that wasn’t enough to shock you, there are actually eight bear species globally. Though you hopefully will never encounter them face-to-face in your travels, each bear species is unique in its own way. 

There are 3 bear species that are native to the United States.

Depending on where you live in America, there are three different types of bears that you should look out for: Black bears, brown bears, and polar bears. Here they are!

Large healthy Black Bear walking, turns to search for cub
  • Black bears. Black bears are the most common bear found in the United States. Chances are, the bear you’re seeing in your backyard or roaming through the woods is a black bear! They’re known to live in at least 40 states in America.
Animal from class ursine. Big brown bear in forest. Beast of prey  in nature.
  • Brown bears. Grizzly bears are the most common type of brown bear in the continental United States. The habitat of grizzly bears is much smaller than it once was. They’re now typically found in the central and northwestern areas of the United States.
Polar bear walking on the ice in arctic landscape sniffing around.
  • Polar bears. Unless you happen to be on a trek through the Alaskan wilderness, you probably won’t encounter a polar bear in your daily life. These are the largest bears native to America and are only found in the state of Alaska.

Despite a large bear population, the likelihood of you actually seeing a bear as you’re going about your day is pretty slim. That is, of course, unless you live out in the country or in a heavily wooded area.

There are 5 other bear species across the globe.

If you’re traveling in other countries throughout the world, you’re more likely to encounter one of the other five species of bears! But, you’ve probably never even heard of most of them. 

Take a look at the other bears that live in the rest of the world.

  • Sun Bear (Asia)
  • Sloth Bear (India)
  • Spectacled Bear (South America)
  • Asian Black Bear (China & Russia)
  • Giant Panda (China)

For the most part, bears are present in nearly every country across the globe. The actual species of bear that you might see, however, depends heavily on the continent and country you’re in.

Koala bears are NOT bears.

You might be disappointed to find out that koala bears aren’t really bears at all!

Despite their ability to climb high in the trees like other types of bears, koalas are actually considered marsupials. They’re native to Australia and usually consume a plant-based diet.

Their classification as a marsupial is due to the fact that they keep their young in their pouches until they’re finally ready to leave the pouch and explore the world alongside their mother!

The Size, Speed, and Force of Bears

If you’ve never encountered a bear in person, consider yourself lucky! Most people don’t actually realize just how large bears are until they see one in person. That experience can be quite a reality check.

Along with great size comes great force. Not only is it common for bears in America to weigh well over 500 pounds (sometimes even over 1,000 pounds!), but they also tend to have an incredibly strong bite force. As if their physical size wasn’t frightening enough, bears can also run incredibly fast. Much faster than the world’s fastest humans!

Some bears have a bite force of around 1,000 PSI.

Though you’ll hopefully never experience the bite of a bear in person, you’ll be impressed by just how hard their bite can be!

Bears have a bite force of around 1,000 PSI, which is incredibly powerful! In fact, it’s just about the strength behind the bites of lions and tigers.

To put that into perspective, the average force behind the bite of a bear is about the amount of force that would be required to absolutely destroy a telephone pole.

Bears can run up to 35 MPH!

If you’re not up for a frantic foot race, it wouldn’t be a good idea to taunt a black bear enough to want to chase you.

That’s because black bears and grizzly bears, in particular, can run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour

You’ve probably been in a car going at least twice that fast at some point in your life, but you don’t realize how fast 35 miles per hour can be until you’re running away from it!

Think about it this way. The fastest speed ever recorded by a human was 28 miles per hour. Now take into consideration that humans can only maintain this speed for several seconds at a time.

Bears can keep this speed up for much longer than humans!

Bears can weigh well over 1,000 pounds when full-grown.

From afar, bears don’t look all that big. But, the distance between you and the bear can be quite deceiving when it comes to understanding just how big these creatures can be!

The heaviest bears native to America would be the polar bear, weighing in at an impressive 900 to 1,500 pounds on average. However, the heaviest recorded polar bear on record weighed an immense 2,210 pounds!

Now, let’s talk about the bears you’re more likely to see out in the wild: Brown bears and black bears.

Though not quite the 1,500 pounds of the polar bear, black and brown bears are still quite large compared to humans. Black bears tend to weigh about 500 pounds while brown bears typically weigh anywhere between 500 and 900 pounds. 

That’s still more than six times the size of the average human!

The Unique Features & Abilities of Bears

Black Bear Cub climbing the tree

Since you’ll hopefully never get close enough to a bear where you’ll be able to see every minor detail of their bodies, you probably don’t know much about what they’re capable of. Yes, bears can absolutely climb trees. Pretty well, at that!

Bears also can do plenty more with their double-coats that help to keep them warm and waterproof. Bears can actually slim pretty well and for long distances. They also can walk on their hind legs, which can be pretty scary to see in person!

Black bears have special claws that allow them to climb trees.

If you’re wondering what you should do if you find yourself in an unfortunate encounter with a bear, climbing a tree would definitely not be recommended!

Most bears, particularly black and brown bears, are capable of climbing trees rather well. With that said, the last thing you want to do is be trapped somewhere high up in a tree with a bear quickly climbing up behind you.

Bears are so good at climbing trees because of their claws.

In black bears specifically, their claws are about 2-inches in length and are curved. That makes them an excellent resource for latching onto the bark of trees and climbing way up high!

It’s very unusual that you’ll see a bear in a tree, however. They typically only climb trees if they’re looking for food or running away from another predator. 

Bears have a double-layered coat to keep them warm and waterproof.

All bears have double-layered coats designed to keep them warm while they hibernate in the winter, but also prevent the absorption of water while swimming long distances!

As we all know, bears spend most of the winter sleeping. Even when their heart rate slows down as winter moves forward, bears are able to keep warm as a result of their thick, double-layered coats.

When polar bears (or any type of bear really!) decide to take the plunge and cross a body of water to a new location, their coats easily wick the water away. Not only can this help bears to swim faster, but it can also keep the water from weighing them down if it were to be absorbed.

Most bears can walk on their hind legs.

It’s intimidating enough to think about seeing a bear on all four legs. Now picture crossing paths with a bear that’s standing tall on his hind legs.

When bears stand on their hind legs, they’re usually anywhere between 6 and 9 feet tall. For the most part, that means they’re likely several feet taller than you while on their hind legs.

But, bears on their hind legs aren’t usually a cause for concern.

Bears typically stand on their hind legs to get a better view of something. Sometimes, that “something” is a human.

Though these encounters may be terrifying, they’re typically not aggressive and bears stand on their hind legs purely out of curiosity.

Bears can swim pretty well.

While bears usually tend to travel on land, they are built to swim as well!

Just like any other creature, bears need water to survive. However, bears also use water as a means of travel and a source of enjoyment.

Some bears actually enjoy spending time in the water. They might swim across small rivers, but some like to play wrestle in water. That’s pretty interesting to imagine.

We know that bears can swim because many bears have been trapped and tagged to track their location over time. In fact, researchers have discovered that bears can sometimes swim for several miles at a time without becoming tired.

Polar bears are most well-known for their ability to swim. Some evidence shows that they can swim for 30 miles at a time!

The Bear & Other Species

Bears aren’t all alone when they’re out in the wild. Just like any other species, they’re interacting with other plants and animals to feed themselves. What you probably don’t know, however, is that bears usually tend to eat plants much more often than they eat animals!

When it comes to the bear and human relationship, most people would probably wish it to be non-existent. Bears can be a little scary given their size and abilities, but they’re actually more afraid of us then we are of them. Who would’ve guessed?

Bears can live for over 30 years in captivity.

Zoos aren’t only for showing off the number of animals that the state or county can collect.

Most animals in zoos are actually rescued from dangerous environmental situations or are too injured to survive long-term out in the wild.

When in captivity, fed a proper diet, and monitored closely for health purposes, grizzly bears can live to be over 34 years old while in captivity. That’s pretty similar to the life expectancy of a healthy bear when out in the wild!

Though bears can live well over 30 years in the wild, there are some things that can drastically shorten their lifespan. In particular, there seems to be some evidence that the consumption of human foods can cut the projected lifespan of bears in half.

That’s why it’s so important to clean up after yourself when you’re visiting parks with known wildlife. If you want these majestic creatures to grow old and enjoy life as long as possible, you need to take all human food with you when you leave a camping trip. 

Bears tend to eat plants more than animals.

You might think of bears as a natural predator, but they actually prefer to eat plants more than animals. So if you encounter one in the wild, you probably don’t need to worry – they’re probably much more interested in the plant life around you than they are in you. 

Most bears, especially black and brown bears, eat a wide variety of plants, berries, and even insects! Though they might sometimes mix in a small mammal or a fish here and there, bears usually eat plants and insects.

What’s even more interesting is just how much bears eat on a daily basis!

You have to take into consideration just how large bears can be, at sometimes over 1,000 pounds each. To maintain their weight throughout the year, bears sometimes eat over 30 pounds of food on a daily basis.

That’s about 10 times as much food as the average human eats over the course of a day.

Bears are typically afraid of humans.

Despite their huge size and quite clearly being able to win in a fight against any human, bears actually seem to be scared of humans!

If it makes you feel any better, it’s very rare for a bear to approach you if you happen to see one out in the wild. There are very few circumstances in which a bear will approach or even attack a human.

This fear of humans explains the most effective way of keeping a bear away from you: Scaring it away!

Most organizations recommend making yourself look large and making a loud noise to scare a bear away when they get too close. You can also try making a lot of hand motions, screaming and yelling, stomping your feet, and whipping your coat or jacket around to make yourself look as large and intimidating as possible. 

There are a few times that this won’t work, however. If a bear has newborn cubs and feels they are in danger or the bear is used to interacting with humans, your attempt to scare it off won’t be too successful.


Bears can absolutely climb trees. While it’s easier for younger bears to climb trees than it is for older bears (due to their smaller claws and lower body weight), you should never consider up in a tree to be a safe location when a bear is threatening you. 

These furry animals can be a little scary if you ever come face-to-face with one, but they’re actually pretty magical creatures. While they’re out in the wild, they’re capable of plenty of things that humans will never see with their own eyes. Here are our top three stunning facts about bears in America!

  • Bears have special claws to help them climb trees better.
  • Bears can swim quickly and for relatively long distances.
  • Bears can run at a speed of up to 35 miles per hour, which is faster than the world’s fastest humans!
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