Bears are fascinating creatures , they are found almost every where across the globe from the frozen Arctic to the hot humid Asian forests bears have adapted and survived for thousands of years. Bears for the most part are classified as carnivores (meat eaters) , but in reality most are omnivorous living of a mix of meat and vegetation , some are even almost exclusively herbivores (plant eaters) for example the Giant Panda lives almost solely off bamboo. Lets take a look at the 8 species of bear and their different characteristics.
The Black Bear:
There are eighteen known subspecies of Black Bear , which can all be found throughout North America. Estimates of the number of Black Bears currently in the wild differ, but there numbers are predicted to be in and around 750,000. These bears as the name suggests are dark in color with a coat of heavy dark brown and black fur, most Black bears weigh in at around 300 pounds but this varies depending on season and males tend to weigh more than the smaller females , the heaviest Black Bear ever recorded weighed in at a massive 802 pounds in 1885 in Wisconsin, USA. Black Bears are omnivorous meaning they will eat almost anything , but they have a particular love of honey.
The Brown Bear:
The Brown bear is probably the most diverse species of Bear on the planet and can be found everywhere from North America to Europe and Asia. The brown bear is the ultimate survivor of the animal kingdom living everywhere from the frozen Canadian/ Alaskan tundra , through the forests of North America and Europe ,to the frozen peaks of the Ural mountains and the tropical humid climates of Asia. It is too difficult to estimate the number of Brown Bears in the wild due to their range and diversity. it is also hard to establish an average weight as males can weigh anywhere from 300 to 860 pounds, with the females weighing somewhere between 205 and 455 pounds their size and weigh depends on the time of year, they almost double their weight after emerging from hibernation in the Spring and abundance of food available in their region , with Kodiak Bears (pictured) the largest subspecies of Brown Bear found in Alaska, where the live predominantly on a diet rich in fish.
The Polar Bear:
The largest land carnivore on the planet at a massive 1300 pounds is the adult male Polar Bear. Unlike their Black and Brown cousins the Polar Bear’s live almost exclusively off meat, mostly due to the harsh constantly frozen condition of their arctic home, where little to no vegetation grows. In order to survive some of the harshest living conditions on the planet, the Polar Bear has evolved to be an expert survivalist, Like a giant solar panel, the skin of the bear is black to draw every bit of possible heat from the sunlight. Their overall body shape and large , slightly webbed paws make the Polar Bear a formidable swimmer. Unlike most other Bears male Polar’s tend not to hibernate, however females do. 60% of the world’s Polar Bears live within Canadian territory , the remainder are found in Alaska, Russia, Greenland, and Norway at Svalbard. There are approximately 26,000 Polar Bears left in the wild , with their numbers under serious threat from the increasing effects of global warming. for more on Polar Bears you should definitely visit the awesome Polar Bears International site.
The Giant Panda Bear:
So uncharacteristically Bear like was the Giant Panda, that it was not officially recognized as a species of bear until 1995 , having previously been though to be a species of Raccoon similar to the Red Panda. The Giant Pandas omnivorous diet, mostly consisting of bamboo , large heads and 6 digit front paws with opposable thumbs are all unique characteristics for a Bear. Giant Pandas can only be found in the dense forests of six tiny mountainous regions in southwest China.Giant Panda’s live almost exclusively off Bamboo with the grass making up 99% of the pandas diet, despite living almost solely off it bamboo is not nutritionally dense enough to sustain the Panda and so it must consume enormous amounts of it, sometimes up to 40% of their own body weight, everyday to meet its nutritional requirements. All of the Giant Pandas in the world belong to the Chinese government with some leased out to foreign Zoos. The giant panda is critically endangered , due to a combination of deforestation and its own inefficient breading patterns. At the last count in 2014 there were only just over 1,800 Giant Pandas left in the wild, while still critically low the numbers of Pandas have increased year on year since 1970. To find out how you can help the Giant Panda ,why not check out WWF Panda Homepage.
Asiatic Black Bear:
Asiatic Black Bears have many similarities to their American cousin. The main differences in appearance are their large ears and a white patch of fur on their chest, which is often shaped like a V, with some varying amount of white on their chin as well. Asiatic Black Bears have not been as widely studied as other bears looked at so far, and very little information is recorded about their relative size etc.. Asiatic Black Bears can be found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sikkim, Northern India, Bhutan, and into Burma. They can also be found in Northeast China, and Southeast Russia, Taiwan, and on the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku. These bears mostly live in forested areas, especially hilly and mountainous places. The are know to have an omnivorous diet similar to the American black bear, they do however have a fondness for nuts and often build feeding platforms in nut bearing trees.
The Sloth Bear is a relatively small Bear weighing between 120-310 pounds, with a distinctive long shaggy coat and long curved claws. They are mostly found in the forested areas and grasslands of India and Sri Lanka. However, sightings of these little bears have also been recorded in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. these little forest dwelling bears live mostly off termites and other insects, vegetation and nuts. like all bears they are solitary animals and tend to live in relative isolation with the exception being females raising cubs. Want to know more about the Sloth Bear , why not check out their National Geographic profile here.
The Spectacled Bear gets its name from the distinctive circular bands around their eyes. Like the Sloth Bear, The Spectacled Bear is a small bear, the males generally weighing from 220 to 340 pounds, and the females are around 30% smaller weighing around 140 to 180 pounds. Like their North American Brown relatives, Spectacled Bears are highly adaptable and can be found living in various terrains across South America. This little Bear is found in Venezuela and Columbia, through to Ecuador, Peru, and on into Bolivia. Generally, they live at altitudes of 6,000 – 8,000 feet, but they have been found from 600-13,800 feet as well.In addition to mountainous forest regions The Spectacled Bear has also been found in steppe lands, rain forests, cloud forests, and even coastal scrub desert land. Spectacled Bears eat a wide variety of food, ranging from mice, rabbits, birds, berries, grasses and orchid bulbs, but their favorite food by far is fruits of the Bromeliacae plant. In recent years logging and development in their native countries have had a huge negative impact on the Spectacled Bear, with the destruction of their habitat leading to declining numbers in the wild with only an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 left in the wild.
The sun bear is the smallest member of the bear family and can be found in the lowland tropical rain forests of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, and many other countries in the Southeastern Asia. Fully grown Sun Bears only weigh up to 145 pounds, and measure at their longest 60 inches. These omnivorous Bears live on a diet consisting mostly of termites, birds, small mammals, and even bits of oil palms, and other commercial crops. The have long curved claws which help them climb trees and a far longer tongue than any other bear which allow them poke their tongue deep into Termites hill’s in order to eat the insects. however given their shy reclusive nature little is known about these stunning creatures and even observations of Sun Bears in captivity have shown such variously different behaviors that little is truly known about them.
So there you have it , a brief look at the 8 species of Bears. If you have any great bear photos , videos or stories be sure to share them with us in the comments , send them to us on twitter , Facebook and Instagram or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org