Are Black Bears Dumb? (7 Facts You Should Know!)

Everyone knows the size and strength of black bears, but people still doubt their intelligence. So, are they really dumb or actually smart? 

Quick answer –  Black bears are not dumb. 

In fact, they can recognize things and use simple tools. They are even good at problem-solving and navigating to different places. 

All these make them smart animals.

So, if you are curious about black bears’ intelligence, continue reading below!

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How Intelligent are Black Bears?

According to a biologist in British Columbia, black bears have the same level of intelligence as a 3-year-old human. 

Ben Kilham, a famous independent wildlife biologist, compared the intelligence of black bears to that of great apes. 

In fact, the tests done at the Psychology Department of the University of Tennessee confirmed bears to be the most intelligent mammals in North America.

4 Proof that Black Bears Are Smart

According to a scientist called Fairbanks, black bears are far more intelligent than we could think.

Here are  4 proofs that show that black bears showcase their intelligence in a variety of different ways. 

1. Great Problem-Solving Skills

Their capacity for creative problem-solving in different situations proves this fact. For example, when searching for food.

Some people make adjustments to their bird feeders in an effort to prevent bears from entering. However, due to their intelligence, bears can be difficult to stop completely.

Even if the bird feeder is moved to a different location, bears are able to find it. 

This is because they are good at problem-solving. Due to their great sense of smell and problem-solving skills, they are able to find the bird feeder. 

2. Excellent Navigation Power

A picture of a black bear looking for food

Black bears are excellent in their navigation power.

They can easily find food and get out from there and go to their actual location. For example, black bears can go back to their actual habitat after being displaced from there. 

According to one study, over 50% of black bears were able to return to their original place. They were displaced to different locations, and the route way back was also not straightforward.

Sometimes they also use olfactory cues to find prey and return back to known places. The navigation techniques used to achieve this by bears are called celestial or magnetic cues. 

This proves that bears have excellent navigation power. 


3. Good Emotional Intelligence

Some people have the opinion that black bears have the capacity to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them.

Bears have been seen sitting at places for a long period of time and seeing natural beauty.

There is a school of thought among scientists that bears have a level of self-awareness as well. This allows them to recognize themselves in a mirror.

4. Exceptional Vision and Sense of Smell

They have exceptional vision, and they can detect the scent of food from many miles away. Some people believe that they have the most acute sense of smell of all mammals.

So, if they are intelligent, then do they act dumb sometimes?

Do Black Bears Sometimes Act Dumb?

Black bears are no doubt smart, but yes, they do act dumb at times. 

On occasions when they see a dog barking at them, they would run away

They are bigger than dogs and can easily scare the dog. But still, they would run away most of the time.

For this act, people may think they are dumb.

But they do this because they don’t like to be in trouble without any reason. So, they run away.

Black Bears Intelligence Compared to Other Mammals:

Different animals have different brain sizes, neuron densities, etc. Let’s take a look and compare some of the animals. 

Are Black Bears Smarter than Dogs?

A picture of a dog

If we compare the brains of black bears and dogs, then black bears would be smarter than dogs. Since black bears can think critically, an average bear would outwit dogs.

But some dog breeds’ intelligence can be higher than black bears. 

Furthermore, even though black bears are smarter, they are afraid of dogs. This is because they associate dogs with wolves.

Are Black Bears Smarter than Humans?

In spite of their high-level intelligence, bears are obviously not smarter than human beings. But they, like humans, form relationships and collect resources and food.

If trained properly, they can also learn sports. Black bears also use tools to resolve their problems. For example, they would pick up sticks to scratch their back.

So, it proves that they are not as smart as humans, but they definitely have some similarities.

Are Black Bears Smarter than Cats?

A picture of a cat

It is said that they have the same level of intelligence even though the brains of bears are 10 times bigger than cats.

There is not much research done on this aspect. So, there is very limited information when it comes to comparing the IQ level of black bears and cats.

Are Black Bears Smarter than Primates? (Chimps, gorillas, etc)

No, black bears are not smarter than primates like gorillas, chimps, and apes.

The intelligence level of primates is higher than mammals like black bears. Their brains include a more dense cortex and neurons, which make them very smart.

Primates can process information faster than black bears due to interneuronal differences.

Are Black Bears the Smartest Bears?

There is no proven research that shows black bears are the smartest bear. Most of the bears are smart in their own way and show their smartness depending on their environment and situation.

However, if not the smartest, black bears are smarter than some bears.

We always see videos of them stealing food, opening car doors, house doors, and so on. Not all bears can understand the mechanism of doors and things like that.  

Are Black Bears Emotionally Intelligent?

Black bears are calm, considerate, and emotionally intelligent animals. They can express their emotions very well.

They have a genuine love for their young and take care of them. Black bears even grieve if any of their mates die. The cubs of black bears cry when they get separated from their mothers.

Furthermore, black bears have a curious nature, as well as a high level of tolerance. 


To conclude, there is no doubt that black bears are very smart among the bear species. They can solve certain critical problems, open doors, use tools, and so on. 

Although they are not as smart as human beings and primates, they are smarter than some animals, like dogs. 

Black bears also have a high level of emotional intelligence and express their emotions fully. They are curious as well as self-aware.

So, all these factors clearly prove that black bears are not dumb, in fact, they are smart.
Interested in updating your knowledge on black bears?

Don’t forget to read Are Bears Afraid of Fire? (7 Things You Should Know)