BLACK BEARS sybils den
Welcome to Sybil's Den.  This site is meant for information purposes  on raising  pet exotics animals based on my experience.  There are care sheets for black bears, foxes, raccoons, emus, farm animals and domestic animals.   Also please find a very informative message board with a lot of great members.

For some of the species of animals I have or had information on, You will find their photo gallery.

Home Page
Care Sheets
Fox Breeders
Fox Q&A
Message Board
Pet Poems
Pet Steer
State Regulations
Lite A Candle
Vet Listings


Written by:  Pat Rask, Sybils Den

Do you have the time to commit to a black bear?
Are you willing to give up your vacations?
Have you done a multitude  of research on captive black bears? Have you talked with bear owners?
Can you afford to feed him/her? Do you realize the strength an adult bear has?
Would you know what to do if a bear  would over power you?
Can you afford to build the proper secure outdoor enclosure? Can you build a shelter where they feel secure and can hibernate? Do you have a vet that is willing to treat a black bear?
If so, does this vet have any experience with exotic animals? if not, is the vet willing to learn?
Are black bears legal  in your state?
Have you checked with your state DNR/Game Commission?
Do you have a place to put a large outdoor enclosure so neighbors or other people can not see them? 
Are you neighbors willing to accept the fact you own a black bear?
Do you have the patience to bottle feed a bear cub?
Are you willing to get up during the night several times to feed a cub?
Are there young kids in your household or kids that come on your property that that would tease the bear or go in the pen?
Do you have experience with other animals?
Farm animals? other exotic animals?
It there a pond or large pool in the pen? (they love water) If not, can you afford to get some type of water source for them?

Please do extensive research prior to owning a  captive-born black bear. A black bear is NOT like a dog.. Black bears still  have wild animal instincts and can get aggressive for no reason.  Those cute little cubs grow up and are very strong animals.  You have to understand their needs, proper food, proper care and proper housing.  Always have a back up plan of  "what if".  

Some exotic animal owners can be too trusting with their bears, or any large exotics animals, accidents can happen. (not that it happens often)  the problem is, when it does, this just makes all the responsible owners look bad, and more bans happen, state wide. At the time of this writing, many states are now banning many exotic animals, due to accidents from being too trusting.

I have seen too many people realize, they can't handle a bear and other exotics after they grow up, then try to  re-home them. Chances are these unwanted bears will be put down or put in a rehab center. This is NOT fair to the animal or the owner. 

You cannot  put a bear or any animal in a pen without a lot of human contact or expect the animal to be happy and friendly in a small enclosure.  It just don't work that way. It takes a lot of understanding and extensive research. when I say "research" I don't mean just watching a few TV shows or just reading a few posts on the internet.  The best way to learn more about them, is read everything you can find on black bears. Most importantly, TALK TO BEAR OWNERS. ask questions. Also, visit zoos, rebab centers, and other bear owners.  Watch the bears behavior.

If you have done your research and really would like to have a black bear, The following is the basic information to start with:

The first thing is, you will need to check with your state and township to see what the regulations are. You should have all the information and required permits before buying a black bear.  Otherwise, expect a large fine and the bear put down.   I personally have seen this happen. Many states are now banning bears and other exotic animals, if they are not banned, then there is a two-year experience required.  That is how it is in my state and many other states.

Black Bears can be a lot of fun, as long as you understand them, and have the ability to handle them properly.

The male bears grows larger then the female bears do.. A female bear will average about 250-350 pounds.. A male bear can get as large as 700 pounds or more.. .

Click Here for  an article that was written by  "The American Black Bear Association"
If you already have a black bear, this article gives many ideas for your bear.
If you are considering one, this article might help you decide.

It is important to know the breeder of the black bear cub before you buy one.  There are several breeders that are into breeding for the money. Then there are the good breeders that care about the cubs and their welfare.  

The bad breeders, generally don't pull the cubs from the mother the same day or prior to selling it.  . This will make it very difficult to handle the cub. These cubs did not have human contact until it is sold.. Human contact with cubs is very important, otherwise, most people will get discouraged, bitten and scratched.  Chances are good, if you buy a bear cub that has not any or little human contact, then expect a very difficult time working this cub. I have seen several people run cubs back through the auction, because the cubs were too hard too handle. 

To give you an idea of what I am trying to say:  When I bought Sybil, I bought her from a bad breeder. She was my first bear cub. She was very hard to handle. bit, scratched a lot. It took months before she finally got use to people.  Bottle feeding her was a real task. But, keep in mind, I have had years of experience with many other animals.  I just did the best I could to work with Sybil. Most people would get discouraged and give up.  I have seen it happen many times. It was very time-consuming to work with a bear cub with a wild-type disposition.
Now with Benny, he was from a good breeder, he never bit me, he was very patient for his bottle and much more friendlier than Sybil. If you buy a cub from an auction, make sure you meet the breeder before bidding on him/her. Keep in mind, Benny is still a "wild animal" that has the potential to change moods in a split second.  Even though Benny has never showed any aggression, I am still cautious.

Generally, you can tell by the size of a cub if it had human contact. The cubs from the bad breeder are  generally  smaller.. The good breeder cubs are bigger and fatter. It is best to talk to the breeder prior to buying a cub.  However, it would be best to find a breeder, rather than buying one at an auction.
again, MAKE SURE you are clear on the legality of owning a black bear in your state, county and township.
Bear cubs are almost always born in January. They should be bought at a young age, of about 3-4 months old assuming the cub had human contact prior selling it.
There are several exotic animal auctions that have black bear cubs.. Mostly, in the early spring is when they are available.. Also in animal finders guide  there is cubs listed.. Zoo's in some states will sell bear cubs, but generally at the age of 6 months or older.

I bought Sybil and Benny at Mt Hope Exotic auction.. This auction is generally held the first week of April every year. They do have several other auctions throughout the year, but, the cubs are sold only in April.

But again, make sure you have your permit, your research done, money for a large enclosure, water source.
Also, understand your vacations are very limited.  It is hard to find someone that will take care of the bear.
If you did have someone that would, this person should have a good understanding of black bears.
NEVER let anyone in the pen with them. (mostly when the bears are adults)

A multi-purpose powder milk replacement with at least 25% fat or higher
A local feed store should  have this.  I bought this at Agway.

A regulator baby bottle can be used to feed a bear cub. Bear cubs seem to do  best on the is type of bottle. As the cub gets older and requires more than one bottle, you should have all the bottles ready at the same time.  

Generally, the most milk a cub  will drink at one feeding is three bottles. The milk should be luke warm, almost room temperature. Test it on your wrist as you would a regular baby's bottle.

The bottle can be heated in a microwave if you have it some in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, the best is to make it as needed with warm water and of course the milk powder.

 If the cub is a bit resistant to drinking the milk, add a little honey or syrup in the milk.  The nipple might need to be open a little more than for a baby, but, don't open the nipple IF the cub is  getting the milk with not problem.

If the cub is not getting the milk fast enough, he/she could get frustrated. But, don't make the hole too big otherwise, the cub can choke and/or throw some of it up.

When the bear cub gets use to drinking it's bottle, you can mix a little mashed potatoes, scrambled egg  or baby cereal in it's  milk mixture.
I don't recommend adding the above until the cub is a little older.
The addition of potatoes, scrambled egg or cereal will  help satisfy the cub.  A bear cub will generally let  you know when he is hungry and when he is full.  On an average, they eat about every 3-5 hours. (so be prepared to wake up during the night to feed the cub)

When you feed a bear cub,  feed him/her  almost like you would a baby, on it's back, but keep him elevated up. the cub  will then wrap his paws around your arm. The claws,  are sharp, so you might want to wear some type of protection to cover your arm. They don't mean to scratch on purpose, this is just a normal reaction for them while they are eating.

A pair of welding gloves will help eliminate the scratches. (Although, we did not use them)

The pictures shown are of Benny when he was a cub.

Bear cub claws are very sharp. One reason for de-clawing is when bottle feeding them they do scratch and bite. When Sybil and Benny were about three months old, I had their claws removed and their baby canines removed. (the second canines will grow back) With the claws, it was a little more  difficult to  feed them.

However, Looking back now, I am not so sure I would have  had them declawed. The only reason I did it in the first place was because of Sybil's wild tendencies.  Sybil was like pulling an animal from the wild. (which of course she was not).
The breeder pulled the cubs from her momma the same day I bought her.  With this in mind, this is why it is best to make sure the bear cub is bought from a good breeder.

Sybil was more aggressive than Benny was.. This was due to the way they were pulled from their mother.. However, they did not scratch for defense, when bottle feeding, they wrap their front paws around my arm, where the claws would dig into my arm.. (didn't feel very pleasant) Their claws are not retractable like cat's claws..

If you are considering de-clawing your cub, this should be done at a very young age.
Any cub past four months old, is much harder on the cub and is more expensive to have done.
(I  don't recommend having it done after 4 months).  If you can handle the cub with claws, I think that would
be the better idea.  You would need to wear something with long sleeves with heavy material.

However, it is not crucial that the cub get declawed and probably should be avoided.  Their enclosure should be more secure at the top, so they don't climb out, but, I think, as bears get older, they generally don't seem to climb to the top of the fence. Also, some state regulations require a top fence on top.

The other reason I had my cubs de-clawed, is for the safety of the dogs and the safety of the cub.. With claws they can climb tree's.. without claws, it is obvious they can't climb.. I did not want to take any chance of Sybil and Benny climbing tree's where they could possibly escape or fall out of a tree. This has happened to wild and domestic bears.

Some people think this is cruel and unnatural. I personally look at it as a safety feature for the bear, dogs and people.  Even though a bears claws will dull a little as they mature. Sybil and Benny did not have any problem at all adjusting to not having claws. In fact, by the next day after their surgery, they were fine, as though nothing ever happened.  actually, some of their claws grew back. but, they are short.

Wild bears obviously need their claws to hunt food and for defense. Captive born bears don't have to worry about hunting foods or predators.  Declawing is only a personal preference.  There are some other bear owners that have their bears with the claws and don't seem to have any problem. Basically, just make sure the cub is safe from climbing too high. 

A domestic black bear should NEVER be released back into the wild. Unwanted bears should be placed in a rehab center or sold to someone that will care for it. It would be almost impossible for a de-clawed bear to survive in the wild. Even a bear with its claws will have a hard time surviving in the wild.  They are very dependant on people, where this will just be  a death sentence for a released bear.

Most bear cubs are born in January or February. In the wild, they generally quit nursing from their mothers around September. In captivity, usually around August or September. This is something that needs be done a little at time. The cub should be eating, prior to bottle breaking.  Fruit, eggs or most soft foods is a good starter food.

The first thing we did was start putting  milk in a bowl.  They will start drinking a little bit. You could also try putting milk on their fruit or whatever food they are eating at that time.

But, they still will want the bottle.  This needs to be done a little each day. I  start cutting back on the bottles.  I would try to get them to eat more food.  Sometimes they would go without a bottle for a day or two, but, I would give into them and give them a bottle. It took about two to three weeks to completely bottle break them. Sybil was much harder to break than Benny.  Benny was eating more food than Sybil was at 7 months.  Sybil was also much more aggressive than Benny at that age.
Sybil and Benny get fed twice a day. 

I have found that Sybil and Benny will get tired of the same foods everyday. So I try to give them a few different foods  every couple days.

During hibernation, their food intake is cut in less than half. They do not eat much during hibernation.
I don't want to feed them much either, because they are less active..

The following is some of the foods Sybil and Benny eat.   They will get bored with the same food everyday.  Their absolute favorite is raw eggs. I give them shell and all, they enjoy breaking the shell to eat the egg.  I also hand feed eggs to them, and worthers hard candy and dog treats.

When they get dog food, I will mix lettuce, can cat food, oil, honey, syrup or eggs.
they also love jelly on their bread.

Main Diet

The following is a list of some of the foods they eat. Their food is altered and some depend on the season.

(Note: An asterisk  represents their favorite and
is usually fed daily when available.)


Apples Blueberries cherries *Grapes
Cantaloupe Grapefruit Oranges Peaches
Plums Watermelon Corn on the cob
Carrots Potatoes *Lettuce *tomatoes

In conjunction with the above
fruits and Vegetables
they also get the following.
*Fresh Fish *Eggs dog food chicken Jelly bread
I mix honey, lettuce, bread and eggs in dog food.


They get the following treats sparingly.
Dog treats Milk bones Peanuts Licorice
cake Pies Ice cream Donuts
Muffins worthers hard candy (hand treat)
How and where we buy some
 of the foods listed:
Fruits/Vegetables are purchased at a large flea market.  We purchase in bulk.
The fruit is the same fruit that is sold for human consumption.  It is all good fruit. We are lucky to have found a couple vendors that are willing to sell some of their produce in bulk for a much better price.

Bread and Snacks:
We purchase this at a bread store by bulk.
The bread and snacks are still in date when purchased.  but, some may be close to expiring.
since there is so much of it, we put most of the bread and snacks in freezers to preserve it longer.

However, the bread and snacks are not solely for the bears, it is also used for some of our farm animals.

We mainly try to get bread, or low sugar treats.
Tbear in hibernationhe first thing to check is with your state regulations.  Some states will have different regulations for fence and housing.  The bear (when old enough) can be kept in his/her pen by the end of their first summer.

They should be introduced to their new environment a little each day. This way, they will adjust easier when they are put their full time.  Make sure a lot of time is spent with them when they are in the pen. A little at a time, let them also get use to be there alone.

They must have a house that they can feel secure in. Straw is a must, especially in the hibernation months. The den should be enclosed as much as possible where they can feel secure and warm in the winter.

 Sybil and Benny's house is a barn that was sectioned off. It is set up with two stories. They have a ladder that goes to the loft (their den) which they seem to prefer. But, they also have an opening from the loft where they can go outside to their porch with steps.

The lower part of their den, also have has another opening to go outside. 
Sybil and Benny also have toys in their den and downstairs. They generally played with them  more when they were younger.  They don't seem to bother too much now.

The picture shown here is Sybil in her den.  she is coming down the steps to the lower part of her den.

The house should be made of heavy wood, It wouldn't hurt to have chain link fence on the
inside or outside of their house. As bears get older, they get stronger. Eventually, they could break through walls. T1-11 wood might be alright , but, the thicker, the better.

The fence MUST be constructed with chain link. You should not use anything thinner. As I said, the older they get, the stronger they get. Cattle fence or similar, will not be strong enough, bears can break through this. The bottom of the  fence should be cemented in. Otherwise, you stand a chance of them working the bottom of the fence and escaping.
If they have claws, they will dig their way out.

The size of the pen should be made as big as possible.  If you don't construct  a large enough pen in their young years, you should have plans to enlarge the pen as they get older. It is also a good idea to have your pen in a few sections.  This method makes it easy when cleaning their pen.  you can lock them in to one side, while you clean the other side.

The size of the fence should be as big as you can possibly make it. However, the first one or two years, you should be ok with a minimum of about a  30 X 25 pen. The height would be about 12 feet high.

Keep in mind, bears get bored very easily. They need a lot of activity.  If you have a small pen, I definitely recommend increasing their pen size.  If at all possible, a pond would be great or something big to put water in for them. Keep in mind, using a pool with no filtration is extremely hard to keep the water fresh.

Sybil and Benny's pen currently is about 300 X 200 ft. There second expansion is done. with a third expansion in the works.

Chain link fence is very expensive. keep in mind, you will need the heavy poles, gates and a backhoe or lots of friends to help construct it.   We were lucky that we got all our chain link fence from a few sources that were getting rid of the fence. Obviously, a truck is needed to pick the fence up. Then a backhoe or some type of heavy equipment to be able to lift the fence in position.  unless you can get a lot of people to help put the fence up. Don't have too long of a span between poles.
I think about 6 feet spans for poles would be best.

Sybil and Benny's fence is 12' high.  That is the requirements from the state regulations.
I personally agree with this height, mostly, if the bears have claws.  but, being de-clawed, I would think 10' high would work. But, I have to go with my state regulations.  However, we can never "over secure" a pen. Also, to be extra safe, put a electric fence at the very top if you don't have a top on the pen.   Part of their pen don't have a top, but, has electric wire.

The most important part of the fencing is the bottom of the fence.  The bottom fence should be cemented in, otherwise, bury the fence in the dirt and put a strand of electric at the bottom. outside the fence might be better.

If your bear has claws, I would recommend a top on it. If a top cannot be put on, then make sure there is electric around the top so they don't escape. DO NOT use any netting type for the top.  This is dangerous, the bear could get caught in it.. If the bears don't have claws, a strand of electric at the top will be fine. Chance are the bear can't climb to the top, but, it is best to be safe than sorry.

The height of the fence should be 10' for de-clawed bears and 12' for bears with claws. However, you will have to check with your state regulations for the pen requirement. Some states require you have a top on the pen.
It is always best to be safe than sorry. 

If the weather is cold. Sybil and Benny do Hibernate.   But, a true hibernation  does not mean they sleep the whole time.  They will get up a lot. We still feed them,  but not as much as we do in the summer.

They generally get up to eat or play a little, but, their preference is to stay in their den. They are supplied with plenty of straw. They did make themselves a very big nest with the straw.

Click here for more information and pictures of Sybil and Benny in Hibernations.

However. I believe  the weather is a factor in this.  Generally, a captive bear cub will not always  hibernate their first year. Sybil did not hibernate her first year. Benny did, only because he was already bonded to Sybil.  Pool little guy seemed a little bored at times.  I made sure he had his toys there.

Now that Benny is older, he and Sybil snuggle together.  Benny makes the nest himself. We just give him a couple bales of straw, and he creates a real nice big nest for two. Sybil just waits until he is done.
No, black bears are really not vicious by nature, but they very well could be.  However, it depends on the way the were raised.

Captive-born bears  can get aggressive. but, they are not generally killers. However, the owner of bears should use common sense when raising bears.  Adult bears should NEVER be 100% trusted, and never let anyone other than the owner have close contact with them. If a bear is raised with a lot of love and understanding, chances lessen for any tragic accidents. This does not mean that bears can still be trusted.  Anything from a different type noise, or body movement could trigger a quick mood change.  It is always good to have a back up plan. It is also important that they understand certain basic commands.  But this is not fool proof either.
The worse time for black bears moods is breeding season, which is generally June, July and sometimes into August and September.. A female will generally mature at 3 years old. A male about 4 years old.. but, for the male, they could mature younger, depending on their size and food intake. 

It is possible that having one bear during breeding season, could make the chances greater of them becoming more aggressive. But, honestly, I am not really sure.  I just know that Sybil and Benny don't seem to show any aggression during breeding season.

Black bears in the wild, are only looking for food.  Most  wild black bears are afraid of people.  However, a hungry black bear could get aggressive.  Most black bears fear loud noises. so if you are ever confronted by a black bear, making loud noises would most likely scare him/her away.  Never wave your arms up, this could be intimidating to a bear in the wild.

A great site to look at for Bears in the wild is
YES, it can be.  It takes a lot of planning of understanding their proper care, needs and behavior.

Black bears are NOT like raising a dog.  You can't expect to buy a bear cub and attempt to raise it like you would a dog. Bears do not understand correction as a dog would.  It takes a lot of patience and time to care for a cub.  Remember, they will grow large and very strong and can over power you.

Never hit a bear, they don't understand this type of correction. When they are full grown, sometimes certain noises can startle them. They can be unpredictable.

The best time to get a cub is when he/she is only a few months old.. You will need to bottle feed the cub. We used a baby bottle for Sybil and Benny.  The milk has to be a high fat content in it, at least  25%.  They could  bite . but, in time. The cub will get use to you and understand not to bite. It takes time for them to understand.
With Sybil, she was pretty aggressive when she was a few months old.  When she was finished drinking her first bottle, we had to make sure we had her second and third bottle ready or she would bite. This was because she was never bottle fed when we got her.  It just took time for her to understand drinking from a baby bottle.

Now with Benny, he was not as bad.. he was more patient than Sybil was. That was because Benny's breeder pulls his cubs several weeks prior to selling them. Benny was and still is a very calm guy.  but, again, he is still a bear.

Overall, bear cubs are a lot of work, but once they are weaned and put in their pen, it is not as much work and cleanup in the house. They still need to have human contact as much as possible. They generally like people and like to be around people, but, there is still a chance an adult bear can get aggressive. You should be on guard at all times when you are with your bear. NEVER let anyone else in the pen with an adult bear. Never let anyone put their finger through the fence. DO NOT let children near the fence.

One very important factor in raising a bear cub is
NEVER WRESTLE OR ROUGH HOUSE with your cub. He/She will think that is ok when they get full grown.

Also, as the cub grows up, never let him/her stand when you are around them. Do NOT encourage them at all to stand.  if you are at the outside of their pen, do not encourage them to stand.  Instead encourage them to stay on all fours. You can start out by, having a treat, but only give them the treat when they are on all fours. You would have to sitting or squatting when handing them the treat. if they stand, tell your bear "NO" in a stern voice. This should have been taught at a young age.

There are many people that cannot go into their bears pen because they wrestled or let them stand. Again, Black bears are very strong animals and you don't want them standing when you are in the pen with them.


The above information is only basic information. 
It is only based on my experience.
If you have more questions, please join Sybil's Message board. There is lots of information from members and m.  Also when you sign up, you can post and you will see all the pictures that are posted there..