Black Bear vs American Alligator: Who’s Winning?

by Jon D. B.
black-bear-vs-american-alligator-whos-winning

Two powerhouse icons of the American South. One winner. Who’s living to hunt another day when a black bear and American alligator square off?

Across southeast swamps and coastal forests, the North American black bear forages to make a living. A top predator in this range, there is still one apex hunter that dares take on these muscular bruins: the American alligator.

It’s a titanic struggle that can (and does) happen when the two species meet. But when a prime specimen of both American staples cross paths, which reigns supreme? Let’s take a look.

American Alligator vs North American Black Bear

American AlligatorNorth American Black Bear
Max weight: 1,000+ poundsMax weight: 600+ pounds
Max length: 15+ feetMax height: 7 feet
Attributes: armored skin, claws, teeth, powerful jaws & tailAttributes: Thick musculature & hide, sharp claws, teeth
black-bear-vs-american-alligator-whos-winning
American alligator and North American black bear. (Photo credit: Getty Images, Outsider)

Having studied both species, there’s one crucial crux both have in common: Never underestimate the power of either. Black bears can bite with 800 PSI (pounds per square inch), and can rip opponents open with the swipe of a paw. Their dense hide and musculature provide ample protection from rivals, too.

But when it comes to the American alligator, the force of their devastating bite can triple that of a black bear, hitting upwards of 2,800 PSI. And as thick as a black bear’s hide is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the armor-like scales of a gator’s hide. Despite sporting 2.5 inch canines and claws, there’s little a black bear will be able to do to injure these swamp-dwelling tanks.

Even with their superior smarts, a bear wouldn’t be able to contend with the gator’s powerful tail or jaws in order to get close enough to expose, then lacerate, the reptile’s armorless underbelly. They could outrun the gator, however. Fascinatingly, both species can run across land at speeds of 20+ miles-per-hour, with the bear topping 30 mph. But we’re not talking the chase. We’re talking battle to the death.

Neither species is overly-aggressive by nature, but place them in the heat of a hunt and both will do whatever it takes to conquer their prey. For alligators, this means busting out the crocodilian family’s signature move: the death roll. And it’s this exact maneuver that gives the gator their undeniable edge over black bears’ ingenuity.

Verdict: Alligator’s Death Roll Clinches Victory

Once this massive reptile has a bear inside its vice-like jaws, the death roll commences and the bruin doesn’t stand a chance; on land or in water.

Alligators use this intense spinning maneuver to brutally break apart their prey’s constitution. They do so with enough power to snap steel bars. It can sever limbs entirely, but the main focus of the gator is to break bones and lacerate flesh, muscle, and tendons. All of which seals the black bear’s fate.

How’s that for a finishing move?

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