Top Bear Facts
While considered a carnivorous species, most bears eat vegetation as their primary food source.
Bears are animals that will fight to the death for family members.
Many bear experts believe bears can smell from up to 20 miles away.
Types of Bear – The 8 Different Bear Species
There are eight unique species of bears that vary in size, appearance and food preference. You can predominantly find them throughout North America, South America, Europe and Asia. The bear species types include:
- Asiatic Black Bear (Asian Black Bear) – The Asiatic black bear, also referred to as the moon bear, is primarily an herbivore bear species found predominantly in Southern Asia, Afghanistan and parts of Japan. They are often found in trees in mountainous areas.
- Brown Bear – The brown bear, also referred to as the grizzly bear, is found in North America, Asia and Europe. They are most notable by the humps that rest over their shoulders and massive brown physique. These bear species are the least likely to become extinct of all the bears, at this time.
- North American Black Bear – The North American black bear can be found from Northern Canada to Central Mexico. It does not have a climate preference. They will even feed on prickly pear cactus. This bear species prefers mountainous regions. However, you will find them in meadows and wetlands, too.
- Polar Bear – Polar bears are only found in the Arctic region surrounding the North Pole. They travel by floating glacial ice blocks. As these ice packs melt, the threat to the existence of polar bears increases making them highly susceptible to extinction.
- Spectacled Bear – The spectacled bear, also referred to as the Andean bear, enjoys spending time in trees. They are the only bear species to reside in South America. These bears are vulnerable to extinction due to human killing for profit and due to mythology.
- Panda Bear – The Panda bear might be the most well-known bear on the planet due to their perceived adorable appearance. They primarily feast on bamboo in Central China. Panda bears are considered endangered due to demand on the black market.
- Sloth Bear – The sloth bear receives its namesake due to the similarities of the sloth animal. The long snout allows them to consume prey not typically associated with bears, including ants and termites. Sloth bears are found in India and Sri Lanka.
- Sun Bear – Sun bears are distinctive due to their cream, crescent markings on their chest. As they often eat bees’ nests, they are commonly referred to as honey bears. You can find them in Malaysia and Indonesia, and they are vulnerable to extinction due to deforestation.
Bear Scientific Names
The family name for the bear species is Ursidae and Ursus is the genus, which means bear in Latin. The following are the eight bear genus species of the bear family:
- Asiatic Black Bear (Selenarctos thibetanus)
- Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
- North American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
- Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
- Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
- Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
- Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)
- Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)
Bear Appearance & Behavior
Bears are distinctive by their fur-based bodies and strong claws. Some climb trees and others swim. Certain bear subspecies have even more distinctive markings around the eyes and on their chest that set them apart from the others.
Various species of bears have adapted to their environments over time. For example, polar bears are white to blend in with the snow and North American black bears have versatile eating habits that include corn crops and cactus depending on their region of residence.
All bears have an acute sense of smell, hearing and sight. They often hear and smell humans before they see humans and flee as a result. Bears are solitary creatures by nature. However, mothers and cubs will travel together, and bears will travel in pairs during mating seasons.
- Asiatic Black Bear: 50 – 116 kg (110 – 255 lbs)
- Brown Bear: 93 – 410 kg (205 – 900 lbs)
- North American Black Bear 39 – 409 kg (86 – 900 lbs)
- Polar Bear 200 – 682 kg (440 – 1,500 lbs)
- Spectacled Bear 64 – 125 kg (140 – 275 lbs)
- Panda Bear 70 – 125 kg (155 – 275 lbs)
- Sloth Bear 55 – 141 kg (120 – 310 lbs)
- Sun Bear 22 – 50 kg (50 – 110 lbs)
The geographic regions of bear species are as diverse as their appearance. Most bear species prefer to live within the canopy of a dense forest. You can find bears throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. They never made it to the Antarctic or Australia. While bears are curious by nature, many times, if they hear or smell a human, they will hide up a tree. Some bears prefer higher elevations, such as the Asiatic black bear, and others prefer coastal regions, such as polar bears. You will even find bears in desert climates, including the spectacled bears and American black bears. Bear populations that are unable to adapt to new habitats are vulnerable to extinction as their current homes are destroyed for development and for lumber.
Bear Diet and Food
Bears have proven they can survive on almost anything. Most bears eat vegetation, such as the panda bear eats bamboo. However, many North American bears have adapted to their environments and will eat other animals and fish, including elk, caribou and salmon. The polar bear, also referred to as the maritime bear, is a carnivorous animal as they typically eat seals, as well as whales and smaller walruses on occasion. And the sloth bear survives on ants and termites.
A growing concern exists for bears eating human food as it causes them to destroy property and even break into homes to seek out more of the same. Eventually, these bears are put down as they become an increasing threat to humans. This tragic result is avoidable as long as humans do not feed wild bears. On rare occasions, bears will eat a poisonous plant by mistake and die. Other than that, bears can eat almost anything to live.
Today, all bear species are somewhat susceptible to extinction. Some bear species are more vulnerable than others. Asiatic black bears, polar bears, panda bears, sloth bears and sun bears are all considered vulnerable to extinction. Brown bears are categorized as stable, and the American black bears are actually increasing in population and considered a least concern at the moment.
- Asiatic Black Bear – Less than 50,000
- Brown Bear – 200,000
- North American Black Bear – 600,000
- Polar Bear – 20,000 to 25,000
- Spectacled Bear – Less than 2,000
- Panda Bear – 2,000
- Sloth Bear – 7,000 to 10,000
- Sun Bear – Unknown, possibly less than 1,000
While several bear species of today are vulnerable to extinction, only a few bear species or subspecies have become extinct in recent history. This includes the Californian grizzly bear in the 1920s and the Mexican grizzly bear in the 1960s. Both became extinct due to hunting. The same is true of the Atlas bear. The Atlas bear was the only bear native to Africa. It was hunted to extinction in the 1870s.
The giant panda bear was near extinction in recent times when drastic efforts were made to save the species. Many scientists believe the polar bear is under severe threat due to climate change. Their existence may be directly connected to their ability to adapt. Thousands of years ago, it is believed that a number of bear species existed before their extinction.
The giant short-faced bear was a carnivorous animal that stood 12-feet high, ran over 40 mph, weighed over 1,500 pounds and lived in the Northern half of North America. It became extinct around the end of the Ice Age due to loss of habitat. Cave bears resided in much of Europe and became extinct around 25,000 years ago before the last Ice Age began. They were believed to weigh up to 1,500 pounds just like the short-faced bear.
Bear Predators and Threats
Bear cubs are particularly susceptible to any number of predators, such as coyotes and wolves; however, adult bears experience very few natural predators. The primary predators that target bears are other bears and humans. Illegal bear hunting is likely their greatest predator. Some cultures poach bears for their meat and various body parts and organs to sell on the black market. Environmental change is another significant threat to bears, their natural habitats and their food sources. And human deforestation and development are also threatening many bear species and subspecies.
Bear Mating, Babies and Lifespan
A courting process does occur between a male and a female bear during the spring. Male bears are promiscuous and will mate with several female bears if possible over time. Only the largest males will mate due to the high level of competition. Because of this competition, female bears will also take on several partners in their life. However, during the courting and mating process, both bears became nearly inseparable. The season of breeding and mating lasts from May to early July. Females typically give birth in January and February.
Female bears mate and experience a fertilized egg and embryos much like humans. They will give birth to between one and six bear cubs. Mother bears are quite affectionate and protective. They will care for and den with their cubs for up to three years, often less. During this time, the cubs will feed on the mother’s milk and food gathered by their mother and themselves. When it is time to separate, the cubs do not take it well. As a result, siblings often stay together for a duration after the initial separation.
The average lifespan of each bear species varies, including:
- Asiatic Black Bear – 25 to 30 years, Oldest on Record: 42 years
- Brown Bear – 20 to 30 years, Oldest on Record: 40 years
- North American Black Bear – 20 years, Oldest on Record: 39 years
- Polar Bear – 20 to 30 years, Oldest on Record: 45 years
- Spectacled Bear – 20 years, Oldest on Record: 37 years
- Panda Bear – 15 to 20 years, Oldest on Record: 38 years
- Sloth Bear – 20 years, Oldest on Record: 27 years
- Sun Bear – 25 years, Oldest on Record: 34 years
It is important to note that most bear species live longer in captivity than in the wild. The averages listed above represent the average lifespan of a wild bear. The oldest age on record is representative of any bear regardless of being wild or captive. As bears age, their health begins to decline just as with humans, including dental health, eyesight and an overall dulling of the senses. This greatly affects their quality of life and ability to surviveView all 114 animals that start with B
Bear Scientific Classification
Bear Conservation Status
Main PreyFish, Nectar, InsectsDistinctive FeatureLarge teeth and paws and strong bodyHabitatForest and mountainous regionsPredatorsHuman, Wolf, WildcatsDietOmnivoreAverage Litter Size2Lifestyle
Favorite FoodFishTypeMammalSloganThere are 8 different species!
Bear Physical Characteristics
Skin TypeFurTop Speed35 mphLifespan15 – 35 yearsWeight27kg – 450kg (60lbs – 990lbs)Height1.2m – 3.3m (4ft – 11ft)