25 States Where Bears Still Roam Free

grizzly bear roars at the forest
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Bears live in many states, happily doing their bear thing in the forests and mountains. Places like Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming are full of these amazing creatures—showing that people are doing a good job keeping them safe. But having more of these mammals around also means we have to figure out how to live peacefully alongside them. Here, we’ll tell you about the states where bears still roam free.


Brown Bear
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Alaska is famous for having many bears, like brown, black, and polar bears. There are around 30,000 grizzly bears in Alaska, which is most of the grizzlies in the whole United States. People in Alaska work hard to keep the bears safe by setting aside special areas for them and only letting a few people hunt them. Katmai National Park & Preserve is a great place to see bears—especially brown ones.


Brown Bear on Brown Wood
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Maine has a lot of black bears—experts guess there are between 25,000 and 36,000 of them. That puts Maine up there with the states that have the most bears in the East of the United States. These bears are spread out all over the state and are important for keeping the state’s plants and animals in balance.


2 Black Brown Bear on Body of Water
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California has a bunch of black bears, with experts guessing there are between 30,000 and 40,000 of them living in different places across the state. These bears eat all sorts of things like plants and animals, and sometimes even stuff people leave out like garbage. California is working on ways to keep bears and people safe—like teaching folks about bears and keeping an eye on how many bears there are and what they’re up to.


Bears in Snow
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Around 25,000 to 30,000 black bears call Oregon home; they’re the only kind of bears you’ll find there. These bears live all over Oregon, with more hanging out in places like the Coast and Cascade ranges and the Blue Mountains—where there are many trees. Now, here’s a fun fact: Even though they’re called black bears, they can actually come in different colors like brown, cinnamon, or even blond.


Close-up Photo of Grizzly Bear
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Washington has about 25,000 black bears. You can spot them in all sorts of forests across the state—from the rainy ones on the coast to the drier ones in the eastern Cascades. Apart from black bears, Washington also has a few grizzly bears, but they’re kind of shy and live mainly in the northeastern Selkirk Mountains and the North Cascades.


brown bear in a road during daytime
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Idaho has lots of bears—both black and grizzly—which add to the state’s variety of animals and plants. There are quite a few black bears in Idaho, and maybe between 20,000 and 30,000 of them roam around the state’s different wild places. The famous grizzly bears used to be all over the state, but now you can mostly find them in certain areas like the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.


brown bear walking on dirt ground during daytime
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Wisconsin’s black bear population has been growing, with around 24,000 of them mainly hanging out in the northern parts of the state. The government keeps an eye on this bear crew by organizing controlled hunting. But don’t worry! They do this to ensure there are enough bears around while also ensuring people and bears get along okay.

North Carolina

Big Brown Bear
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North Carolina has a bunch of black bears, with experts guessing there are between 15,000 and 20,000 of them all over the state. You can find these bears mainly in the mountains out west and along the coast. It’s pretty cool how they can live in all kinds of places. North Carolina even holds the record for the world’s biggest black bear—a massive 880-pound one found in Craven County.


black bear near trees
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Virginia is home to many black bears, with experts guessing there are around 17,000 of them, showing that they’re doing pretty well across the state. These bears are everywhere—with people spotting them in at least 92 out of 98 counties and cities in Virginia. The black bears in Virginia usually have a deep black fur coat, which makes them look different from the ones out west that have red, brown, or blond fur.


two gray bears in green lawn grasses
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If you live in Michigan, you might spot a black bear snooping around your bird feeder or getting into the trash! These surprise visits are becoming more common, especially in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. The bear crew in the state has grown by a whopping 25% from 2012 to 2022. And with more bears comes more mischief—they’ve been causing a bit of a ruckus in the state.


brown bear on water during daytime
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Colorado is home to lots of black bears. Experts think there are around 17,000 to 20,000 of them wandering around the state. You’ll mostly find these bears hanging out in the forests and mountains, especially in the Rocky Mountains. They’ve got plenty to eat there, which keeps them very happy. But these bears are pretty adaptable—they sometimes even wander into towns looking for snacks! This has led to more run-ins between bears and people.


brown bear on green grass field during daytime
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Pennsylvania’s black bear crew has really grown since the 1970s when there were only about 4,000 of them around. Now, experts think there are over 18,000 bears all across the state! That’s thanks to some awesome work to keep them safe and make sure they have what they need. These bears hang out all over the place, but you’ll usually find them in the thick forests up in the northern and central parts of the state.


brown tiger
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Montana is a hotspot for bears—both black and grizzly! Experts think about 17,000 black bears and around 800 grizzlies live there. Black bears love hanging out in the forests and mountains all over the state, while grizzlies prefer to chill in the northwestern part and in places like Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. These bears are important for keeping Montana’s natural world in check and making sure everything stays healthy and balanced.


grizzly bear walking on mountain
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Minnesota is where you’ll find around 15,000 black bears. They mostly live in the northern part of the state, with many forests. But these bears are pretty cool—they can wander from the thick forests up north all the way to the wooded areas closer to the Twin Cities! They aren’t just big and scary but also very important for keeping Minnesota’s forests healthy.

West Virginia

brown bear on green grass field during daytime
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Did you know that black bears are thriving in West Virginia? Yes, they’re the kings of the bear world there. Recent guesses say there are about 13,000 of them in the state, which is almost 50% more than there were at the start of this century. You’ll mostly find these majestic creatures in the thick forests—like the Monongahela National Forest, where they’ve got plenty of room to roam and find food.

New York

brown grizzly bear
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The bear population is booming in New York! Experts think there are about 8,000 black bears roaming around the state. You’ll mostly find them hanging out in places like the Adirondack Mountains, the Catskills, and the Allegheny Plateau—areas with lots of trees and food for them to munch on. New York is making sure there’s a good balance between bears and people by using smart ways to manage wildlife.


brown bear
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Tennessee is like a paradise for black bears—especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and nearby places. It shows how Tennessee is really serious about keeping nature safe and sound. The bear gang in Tennessee has been getting bigger and bigger, thanks to some savvy moves by wildlife experts. They’re teaching folks how to get along with these mammals and making rules to keep the bears safe.

New Mexico

brown bear near grass field
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Did you know bears have been a big deal in New Mexico for a long time? They used to have grizzlies everywhere, but now it’s mostly black bears, which happen to be the state’s official animal! There are about 6,000 of these bears wandering around the state these days. You’ll spot them mostly in the mountainous parts—as those places have all sorts of good stuff for the bears to eat and make homes in.


brown bear on green grass during daytime
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Vermont is mostly home to black bears, with experts guessing there are around 8,000 of them all over the state. You’ll mostly find these bears hanging out in the forested areas, like the Green Mountains. That’s where there’s lots of trees for cover and plenty of food for them to munch on. Vermont’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is working hard to keep these bears safe by teaching folks how to get along with them.


two brown grizzly bears
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Georgia used to be packed with black bears back in the day. Nowadays, experts think there are around 5,000 of these bears still hanging around. These bears are pretty cool because they can live in all kinds of places, from thick forests to swamps. Plus they’re important for keeping everything in balance—they help keep bug numbers down and spread seeds around, which is good for the whole ecosystem.

New Hampshire

a close up of a bear near a rock wall
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According to experts, there are over 6,000 bears wandering around New Hampshire. You’ll mostly spot them in the thick forests of the White Mountains, the Great North Woods, and the central areas. These places have lots of trees and food for the bears to enjoy. The state is doing a great job of looking after its bear buddies. They’re using smart strategies to make sure their population stays just right.


grizzly bear
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Did you know that Massachusetts is seeing more and more black bears these days? Yes, experts think there are over 4,500 of these bears hanging out in the state now. That’s a big jump from the 100 bears they had back in the 1980s! You’ll mostly find these bears in the western and central parts of Massachusetts, but they’re also starting to spread out towards the more crowded areas in the east.


andean bear, spectacled bear, animal
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Florida has its very own type of black bear called the Florida black bear, and they’re super special! Experts think there are around 4,000 of these bears living in the state. You’ll mostly find them hanging out in forests all across the state. Florida’s got a smart plan to look after its bears and keep everyone safe. They use things like bear-resistant garbage cans in neighborhoods near where the bears live.


Brown Bear Lying on Green Lawn Grass
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Did you know Arizona is home to about 2,500 black bears? Yes, you’ll mostly find these bears hanging out in the forests up in the higher parts of the state, like the Mogollon Rim. Sometimes these bears wander into neighborhoods, especially when there’s a drought and they’re looking for food. It’s a reminder of how important it is to make sure bears and people get along—especially in places where they might bump into each other.


bear, brown bear, mammal
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Wyoming is a hotspot for bears, from black bears to the iconic grizzlies! Experts guess there are several thousand black bears and over 700 grizzlies roaming around. Wyoming takes its bears seriously. They work hard to keep them safe and teach folks how to live peacefully with them. It shows how much Wyoming cares about its special wildlife and wants to make sure both bears and people stay safe.