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Ursus americanus is the black bear's scientific name; it means "American bear." Although three species of bears inhabit North America, only the black bear is found in Pennsylvania. A population estimate in 2015 showed approximately 20,000 bears living in the commonwealth. Black bears appear heavy, but are surprisingly agile; they can run up to 35 miles per hour, climb trees and swim well. They may live up to 25 years in the wild.

Black bears are intelligent and curious. Studies show that bears can see colors, recognize human forms, and notice even the slightest movement. Bears usually rely on their acute sense of smell and, to a lesser degree, hearing, to locate food and danger. Despite their common name, black bears are not always black. They may be cinnamon or, even rarer, blond. Many bears have a white blaze or "V" on their chest.

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