Color Phase Black Bear Hunting - Grand Slam Explained

Greetings and welcome, fellow adventurers! Today, we are thrilled to share with you some valuable knowledge about the majestic black bears that roam these lands. You see, as hunters and explorers, it is crucial to understand the different color phases of black bears, as this information can make all the difference when it comes to tracking and hunting these incredible creatures. From cinnamon-brown to jet black, each color phase tells a unique story and presents its own set of challenges. So pay close attention, fellow adventurers, as we delve into the fascinating world of black bear color phases. Are you ready? Let's embark on this wild journey together!

Background of Color Phase Black Bear Hunting

Did you know that besides squirrels, black bears come in more colors than any other mammal on the continent?  Black bears are majestic creatures that roam the forests and mountains throughout North America. While their name suggests they are only black, that is not the case. They can range in color from black brown, cinnamon, blonde, blue-gray and white. These large omnivores can grow up to six feet long and weigh over 600 pounds! In the spring, black bears can be found migrating to higher elevations in search of food. While they may be a popular hunting choice in certain areas, it is important to understand the proper techniques and regulations before going on a bear hunt. One thing to note is that their meat has a sweet and nutty flavor, making it a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts. At Shoshone Adventures, we offer guided bear hunting trips across Canada, Alaska and several “Lower 48” states.  

Black: Venturing into the untamed wilderness of the eastern forests, early settlers came across an imposing sight. The sight of a lumbering black bear! These bears, as we now know them, got their name from being the first bears that settlers encountered. Their fur, darker than night, is specially equipped to withstand the brushy understory of the forest thanks to the melanin within. These creatures blend in easily into the dense forests, but on our Shoshone Adventures, we make it a priority to spot these majestic creatures and watch them roam in their natural habitat.

Cinnamon: Deep in the heart of the wilderness, you may come across a peculiar sight - cinnamon bears. These bears sport a gorgeous cinnamon-colored fur, ranging in shades from light tan to deep reddish-brown. Their thick fur keeps them warm in the chilly mountain air, while their keen senses and incredible strength make them a formidable presence in the wild. Cinnamon bears were originally found only in the western United States, but these days, their range extends into parts of Mexico, most western provinces of Canada and Alaska.  Whether you're an experienced hiker or just starting out on your wilderness adventures, encountering a cinnamon bear is sure to be a thrill you won't soon forget.  

Blonde: When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, there's nothing quite like bumping into a blond bear on your travels. These magnificent creatures are imposing in size, but their light-colored fur makes them stand out from the crowd. Born from a genetic mutation in black bears, blond bears are a rare sight in the wild, but they're worth seeking out if you're lucky enough to spot one. Despite their impressive size, they have a gentle and playful nature, and they're known to be excellent tree climbers. So if you're ever in the heart of bear country, keep your eyes peeled for the stunning and unique blond bear.

Chocolate: The chocolate phase black bear is distinguished from other bears by its unique coloration, which ranges from dark chocolate or cinnamon shades to golden yellow-brown. These bears get their name from the appearance of their fur, which is reminiscent of melted milk chocolate. The fur coat can be one solid color or two-toned, with some color combinations appearing more commonly than others. The claws and nose of this species are black in color and they have small ears and short legs. They are usually larger than other North American bears and can weigh up to 600 pounds or more. 

Some Subspecies: Certain black bears can lighten in color due to sun exposure. The dark brown fur they grow can bleach to an almost blond shade by the time they shed it the following summer. Two uncommon color variations exist in coastal British Columbia and southeastern Alaska, where these bear populations are isolated by mountains. The Kermode bear, a subspecies of black bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), resides on a few islands along the British Columbia coast. While most of them are black, in some areas, up to 20% of them are creamy white and are known as Spirit Bears.

In southeastern Alaska, you can find the Glacier Bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii), a subspecies that is found further north. While most of these bears are black, a few have a unique dark bluish gray color with silver-tipped guard hairs. During the Ice Age, this subspecies was once isolated by mountain glaciers, but these glaciers have now disappeared or significantly shrunk. As these bears mix with nearby populations, the dominant black genes will further diminish the already rare blue-gray color phase.

Where to Find These Bears

Geographically, the color phases of the black bear can be found in North America, ranging from Northern Canada all the way down to Central Mexico. The most common color phases include dark brown (the most common), blonde/cinnamon, and almost black (the rarest). They have also been seen in a few scattered populations with white or blue-gray fur. In the United States, they are especially prevalent in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Black bears are also found in Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces of Canada. While in Canada they inhabit most of the provinces from British Columbia eastward to Newfoundland & Labrador. Where their name originated from being the first bears encountered by early settlers. The black fur, rich in melanin, offers resistance to abrasion in the dense understory of eastern forests. In states with forested areas bordering the Great Plains, 5% to 25% of the bears exhibit shades of brown instead of black. Minnesota, for example, has around 5% of brown individuals. While blonde or white bears are rare in Minnesota, there was a sighting of a young white male near Orr, MN, in 1997 and 1998

In western states with mountain meadows and open park-like forests, more than half of the black bears (Ursus americanus cinnamomum) exhibit brown, cinnamon, or blond fur. This lighter fur color helps reduce heat stress under the open sunlight and enables the bears to spend more time feeding in food-rich habitats. It may also provide camouflage from predators in these open areas. During the Ice Age, predators likely targeted black bears in such open spaces where the bears couldn't seek refuge in trees.

State/Province Percent* Available Colors
Alaska 40-50+ Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blonde
Arkansas 20 Chocolate, Cinnamon
Arizona 60-70+ Chocolate, Blonde, Cinnamon
California 70-80+ Chocolate, Blonde, Cinnamon
Colorado 60-70+ Chocolate, Blonde, Cinnamon
Idaho 30-40 Chocolate, Blonde
Michigan 5+ Chocolate
Minnesota 5+ Chocolate
Montana 30-40 Chocolate, Blonde, Cinnamon
New Mexico 60-70+ Chocolate, Blonde, Black, Mixed
Oregon 40-50+ Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blonde
Utah 60-70+ Chocolate, Blonde, Cinnamon
Washington 40-50+ Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blonde
Wisconsin 5+ Chocolate
Wyoming 40+ Chocolate, Blonde, Black, Mixed
Alberta 25-30+ Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blonde
British Columbia 20-25 Chocolate, Blonde, Cinnamon
Manitoba 25-30+ Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blonde
Northwest Territories 25-30 Chocolate, Blonde, Black, Mixed
Ontario 5+ Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blonde (Mostly in Western)
Saskatchewan 25-30 Chocolate, Blonde, Black, Mixed
Yukon 25-30 Chocolate, Blonde, Black, Mixed

*Percentages are estimates and vary depending upon specific area. All other states and provinces not listed less than 1-percent.

Taxonomists currently separate black bears into the following 16 subspecies based on minor differences in appearance and DNA.  Some of them have common names like Kermode bear, cinnamon bear, and glacier bear, but they are all black bears.

Ursus americanus altifrontalis (U.S. Pacific Northwest)
U. a. amblyceps (Southwestern U.S.)
U. a. americanus (widespread from Alaska to the Atlantic)
U. a. californiensis (interior California)
U. a. carlottae (Queen Charlotte islands of British Columbia)
U. a. cinnamomum (the cinnamon bear; WY,  eastern CO, ID, western MT, southwestern Alberta, southeastern BC)
U. a. emmonsii (the glacier bear; Alaska coast from Glacier Bay to Prince William Sound and adjacent inland area)
U. a. eremicus (northeastern Mexico, Big Bend area of Texas)
U. a. floridanus (FL, southern GA, southern AL)
U. a. hamiltoni (Newfoundland)
U. a. kermodei (the Kermode bear; coastal BC from Prince Rupert to Princess Royale Island, and adjacent inland BC)
U. a. luteolus (southern LA, and southern MS)
U. a. machetes (northwestern Mexico)
U. a. perniger (Kenai Peninsula of AK)
U. a. pugnax (southeastern Alaska)
U. a. vancouveri (Vancouver Island)

The Grand Slam

While it's true that there are several subspecies of bears, we can broadly group them into four categories based on their unique colorings. Black, chocolate, blond, and cinnamon bears all inhabit these rugged landscapes and carve a home for themselves in the vast wilderness. Each type of bear is uniquely adapted to its surroundings and has its own peculiarities, making each sighting an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. 

Are you looking for a challenge that will set you apart from the rest of the hunting community? Look no further than the Black Bear Gram Slam. This impressive feat requires a hunter to take down a bear from every color group - black, chocolate, cinnamon, and blond. It's not an easy task, but the reward is unparalleled. We can't quite figure out why more hunters aren't attempting this challenge, but we're ready to guide you on your journey to becoming a Black Bear Gram Slam champion. At Shoshone Adventures, we'll help you test your skills and push yourself to new heights.

Shoshone Adventures

Welcome, thrill-seekers! Are you ready for the ultimate Black Bear hunting experience? Look no further than Shoshone Adventures! Our skilled outfitters will guide you through the diverse landscapes of North America as you stalk and ambush these majestic creatures. With high populations and daily sightings of 6-10 bears, you'll have an unforgettable adventure. Choose from a range of accommodations, from tents to five-star lodges, and pursue jet black, cinnamon, or other color phase bears. For the truly adventurous, we even offer hunting with hounds! Whether you prefer a spring or fall hunt, we have the perfect season for you. With Shoshone Adventures, not only will you achieve an impressive trophy, but you'll create memories to last a lifetime. Don't miss your chance to be a part of our exhilarating Black Bear hunts!

Visit our website today to learn more and see our wide variety of black bear hunts available. We have a variety of hunts in spring and fall. We hunt for black bears in Canada, Alaska, and in the Western United States. Prices are as low as $2,750 and vary depending on what you are looking for. Go through our list and see what hunt fits your needs. We are excited to go on this journey with you and give you an unforgettable experience!

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