Black Bear Cub Climbing a Tree

Black bear (Ursus americanus) cub climbing a tree

Black bears (Ursus americanus) are proficient climbers. They use their curved claws to cling to the bark and quickly climb high into trees. Generally, they do it to escape danger (it is common behavior for cubs), to eat the nuts or fruit in the tree, or to rest or sleep at the juncture between branches and trunk. In this image, a young black bear is descending a tree after an excursion to the canopy. It is amazing to see how even little bears will climb quickly and with dexterity all the way to the top branches of tall trees and perch there for a nap, with no fear of heights.

By contrast, grizzlies have longer claws that are not as well suited for climbing, which makes them not as effective a tree climber as black bears. This does not mean, however, that grizzly bears cannot or will not climb a tree. They certainly can, they are only clumsier than black bears (given also their heavier structure) so to climb a tree they often resort to hugging the tree and pulling themselves up, using branches as if they were the steps of a ladder.

Anyway, should you experience a close encounter with a bear in the wild, follow sensible bear safety procedures and avoid climbing a tree because chances are that either species of bears will climb it at the very least as well as you can!

Some useful online resources about bears and their behavior can be found at:  

Bear Aware

Bear Country USA

Denali National Park and Preserve

National Geographic Magazine

North American Bear Center

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)


14 thoughts on “Black Bear Cub Climbing a Tree

  1. Maria Dernikos

    Stefano, you have really caught the expression on his face. Another lovely photograph. I did go and read your link to bear safety, obviously in England there is little chance of coming across one but it is always good to know. I was amazed that they are as fast as racehorses.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Maria: glad you liked it! Yes, bears can indeed be very fast despite their mass: I was amazed myself when I saw brown bears sprinting back and forth in pursuit of salmon in spawning season! They are such powerful animals.

  2. the winegetter

    I’ll never forget running into a black bear mom with two cubs once in Alaska: Nina was running away, screaming, our unleashed dog went straight at the bear, and there I was, marveling at the first time I saw a bear, the cute butts of the cubs running away….and then I started running, too. Nothing happened to the dog, thank goodness. Seems like momma bear just wanted to have her cubs have enough time to run away and then take off, too.

    Awesome shot, Stefano!

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Oliver! Yes, black bears are beautiful animals and being able to see one in the wild with the added bonus of the cubs (which are really cute and funny to begin with) is a special treat. I am glad that nothing happened to the dog! 🙂
      Many thanks for your comment!

  3. alisitaliankitchen

    Outstanding pics! I love animals in nature! I want to reach out and hug and kiss it but I don’t think that would be such a good idea! Right?

    1. Stefano Post author

      Hehehe, thank you for your kind words! Yes, probably not a good idea: I’m all for sharing the love, but I am afraid mama bear could not appreciate it! 🙂

  4. ChgoJohn

    A wonderful capture, Stefano. Wonder what it was that so captured his attention? Thanks for the bear info, too, though I doubt I’ll need it for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, should I find myself planning a trip into bear country, I’ll be sure to come back here again.
    Now, if only you had a similar posting about mountain lions. One was killed near here about 3 Summers ago and there have been numerous reports of sightings of the cats just north of here. And people complained about coyotes …

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, John! The reason why he is so circumspect is that there were other adult bears around which had made this young bear wary, so he had climbed the tree for safety. Coming down from the tree, he was inspecting his immediate surroundings to check for possible dangers… And John, I love mountain lions! I will post photographs of one, but unfortunately they will be of a captive animal. I wish I had images of a mountain lion in the wild! A majestic and dangerous predator, which unfortunately has been aggressively hunted so that the population has been steadily declining.


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