Bears, Moose, Deer Species of New York (Upstate)

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New York State Large Mammal Identification Guide

Black BearBlack BearFind more images

Black Bear
(Ursus americanus)

AKA: American Black Bear

Identifying characteristics: As the name implies, this bear has a coat of thick black fur. The snout is cream-colored with a black nose. It has small eyes, large rounded ears, a dog-like snout and a small stubby tail. They walk on all fours, but will often stand on two legs when foraging, scouting or when threatened. The back legs are stronger and better developed than the fronts. Paws have five strong, sharp claws, used for climbing and foraging.

Size: Up to 7 feet in length, weighing up to 600 pounds. Males are generally larger than females. Cubs weigh up to 1 pound at birth.

Habitat: Hardwood forests, swampland forests, with abundant shrubbery and coverage and close proximity to open areas. Areas in close proximity to corn crops, nut/fruit bearing trees. Dens may be in caves, hollowed out trees or logs or underneath groupings of logs.

Food: Omnivorous. Grasses and other small plants, fruits, nuts, insect larvae, honey, rodents, fish, eggs, and carrion. May also prey on larger game.

Predators: Humans and larger black bears. Although they can live up to 30 years in the wild, human hunting, random killings and traffic accidents limit their average age to roughly 10 years.

Reproduction: Litter size average 3 with one litter every 3-4 years. Young stay with the mother for a year and a half.

Other Info.: Can be diurnal or nocturnal depending on the availability of food. They are generally afraid of humans and will turn and run at the first sign of an intruder on their territory, but are certainly capable of seriously harming or killing people. Their sense of smell is superb.

Vocalization: Grunts, moans and roars.

Angry Bear


Black bear distribution

Found in the Adirondack region, Hudson Valley region and some parts of southwestern counties.

Status: none


Black bear tracks

Look for paw prints with 5 claws. Front and back prints may overlap if bear was slowly walking.  Front prints measure about 4 inches and rear prints are roughly 6 inches long. The stride ranges based on speed, from a foot walking to 3-5 feet running.

MooseMooseFind more images

(Alces alces americanus)

AKA: Elk

Identifying characteristics: The moose is a large hoofed animal with thick, woolly brown fur (ranging from medium to dark, almost black). Their heads are long and end with fleshy lips and noses. Their throats have a prominent dewlap. The most striking characteristic for males is their large palmate antlers, which are shed every year after mating season.

Size: The largest member of the deer family and one of the largest mammals in North America. Up to 7.5 feet in height, 10.5 feet in length. Weighs from 600 to 1300 lbs. Males are slightly larger than females.

Habitat: Temperate forested areas with plenty of shade, winter snow-cover and close proximity to lakes, streams or ponds. They cannot tolerate high temperatures of 80°F or higher for very long. Will often cool themselves off in water.

Food: Herbivore. Parts of woody plants, especially willows and aspens. Water plants, such as horsetails and water lilies, are preferred in warmer months. In the winter months, when food is scarce, they resort to eating pine needles.

Predators: Humans, wolves, black bears.

Reproduction: Mating takes place in September/October. Litters are 1-2 in size and occur once a year. Males will often compete violently for mates. This is a dangerous time to come in contact with them.

Other Info.: Do not hibernate, often solitary. Their antlers are the largest of any animal on earth reaching 6.5 feet across in some specimens. During mating season, males are a dangerous threat to humans. Mothers will aggressively defend their young. Their eyesight is poor, but their sense of smell and hearing are far superior to humans.

Vocalization: Females use a moaning sound to attract males for mating.


Moose distribution

Scarcely distributed in the northern-most counties of NY.

Status: none.


Moose tracks

2-toed hoof prints up to 6 inches with strides of 2-3 feet.

White-tailed Deer BuckWhite-tailed DeerWhite-tailed FawnFind more images

White-tailed Deer
(Odocoileus virginianus)

Identifying characteristics: The light brown fur color of this deer varies based on season, with duller gray shades in winter and redder tints in summer. White patches of fur outline the eyes and snouts, line the insides of the ears, underbelly and underside of the tail. Fawns commonly have white spots along their back and sides. Males have antlers that are shed each winter and grow back in spring.

Size: Roughly 4 feet tall and 7 feet in length. Weighing up to 220 lbs, with rare cases of 300 lbs specimens. Males are slightly larger than females.

Habitat: Woodland (open or dense) adjacent to open areas, farmland, succession fields.

Food: Herbivore. Various green plants in summer, corn and available nuts, tender parts of woody vegetation, buds, small shrubs and occasionally grasses. In the winter months, when food is scarce, they resort to eating pine needles.

Predators: Humans, wolves, black bears, cougars, bobcats, lynx.

Reproduction: Mating takes place from October to December. Litters average 2 in size and occur once a year. Males will sometimes compete for mates.

Other Info.: Do not hibernate. They are generally solitary, but a good food source, such as crops, will often draw a population of hundreds for grazing. They have scent glands on their legs and hoofs that they use for communication. Their eyesight and hearing is well-developed but they rely greatly on their sense of smell to forage and detect danger. Mothers tend to leave young fawns lying on the ground in forest floors as they head out to forage for hours. When startled, deer will often wave their tails from side to side, as an alert to others. They can dash quickly, turn on a dime and reach speeds up to 30 mph. If necessary, they will escape predators by swimming away. Males may be aggressive if cornered.

Vocalization: Fawns are the most vocal, sometimes letting out a “baaa” similar to a lamb or goat. Adults may grunt or snort when disturbed.


Complete distribution

Found all over the state and neighboring states.

Status: common.


Deer Tracks

2-toed hoof prints up to 3-4 inches with strides of 12 to 20 inches. Deer tend to step their back hoof into the track of their front hoof creating an overlapping track.

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