- A-Z Animals
Bears are categorized as carnivoran mammals, belonging to the Ursidae family. Presently, there are eight surviving species, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Their large-sized, hairy bodies, long snouts, round ears, and stocky legs are some of their identifying features.
Size: They show sexual dimorphism when it comes to size, with the males being larger than their female counterparts. The polar bear, the largest of the surviving species, has a body length of 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3.04 meter). The sun bear, the smallest among them, is 3.25 to 4.58 feet long (0.99 to 1.39 meter).
Weight: The adult males weigh around 772 to 1543 lb. The sun bear weights 55 to 143 lb. There is a fluctuation in their weight, particularly in those living in the arctic and temperate regions. During summer and autumn there temperature increases as fat reserves build up in their body, while in winter, the weight reduces.
Color: The color varies from one species to the other. The polar bear looks white (though that is not its actual shade). The sun bear has a dark brown, grey, or black body with markings of orange, white, or yellow. Whereas, the spectacled bear has a dark brown or black furry body.
Body: They are massive in appearance with a broad head, massive frames, and extended jaws.
Ears: Their ears are small and round.
Eyes: They have small, black eyes.
Legs: The bear has four legs, two at the front and two behind, all of which are muscular, straight, and stocky.
Paws: Their front paws are larger than the ones at the back.
Claws: They have non-retractable claws used for a wide variety of reasons. Their hind claws are not as big as those on their front feet, making it difficult for them to climb trees.
Teeth: They have 42 teeth in total, four canines, twelve incisors, ten molars, and sixteen premolars. The canines are large, long, and pointed, though they have little function. The molars possess flat crowns, while the premolars remain undeveloped, with some even missing.
Tail: Their short tails are a contrast to the long, thick, graceful ones they had in the past.
They have a wide range, majorly distributed throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia. However, certain species remain confined to a particular location. E.g., the polar bear inhabits regions around the Arctic Ocean, and the spectacled bear dwells in the Andean region of South America.
The bear’s habitat is diverse, as they inhabit the steppes, prairies, montane grasslands, and tropical low land forests. Polar bears are often seen spending a significant part of their time living on sea ice.
The lifespan varies from one species to the other. The brown bear lives for about 25 years, while the black bear has a life expectancy of approximately 30 years.
Bears are omnivores, and their diet comprises of anything from roots, leaves or berries, to fresh meat, carrion, as well as insects. Fish also serves as an essential food source for some, like the brown bear, who does not leave any opportunity to capture salmon. There is, however, an exception, as the polar bear is mostly carnivorous, while the brown bear is herbivorous feeding on bamboo.
The hunting techniques differ from one bear species to the other. While capturing a fish, most of them jump into the water taking their prey using their front paws or jaws. For rodents, they prefer digging the small creatures out of their den and devour them. The brown and black bears are known to target bovids as well as deer, particularly the younger and weaker ones. The polar bear hunts seals, by ether seizing them from the ice or even attacking their dens. A mother teaches her cub predatory behavior right from the start.
The bears adopt polygyny (male has multiple females), serial monogamy (individual has a single partner throughout his life), or promiscuity (being engaged with different partners) mating process. In the course of the breeding season a male pays several visits to the female’s den to know her better and even resists other males from coming in contact with their prospective mates. The period of courtship lasts for a short span, with mock fighting, wrestling, vocalizing, and hugging observed amongst pairs of certain Asian species. Mating, which induces ovulation, lasts for about 30 minutes, though this span varies from one species to the other. The gestation period lasts between six and nine months, with the litter size being around four cubs.
The cubs are blind at birth, depending on the mother bear for warmth. They drink their mother’s milk for about a year since it has a high amount of antibodies and fats. The young ones start following their mother out of her den by the time they are 2 or 3 months of age. Mothers are extremely possessive and protective about their babies, defending them even by putting their life at stake.
These mammals, notably the grizzly and American black bear, hibernate during the winter months, for about 100 days, mostly to get respite from cold. Besides slow metabolism, there is a decrease in body temperature. Their heartbeat per minute goes down from 55 to just 9. A fecal pug (hardened mass of feces) develops in their colon, getting expelled in spring after they wake up from slumber. During this phase, the females birth their cubs and are awaken form sleep for the process.
They communicate through a host of vocal as well as nonvocal sounds.
Peaceful situation (mother-baby interaction or courting): Grunting, chuffing, and tongue
When stressed: Huffing, blowing, sorting or moaning
When alarmed or excited: Barking-like sound
As a warning: Lip-popping and jaw-clicking
During aggressive encounters: Growl, chattering or teeth, bellowing and roaring
Cubs vocalize through humming when being nursed. However, if in distress, they would bleat, squeal, scream, or bawl.
Non-vocal communication includes standing upright, staring, showing their canine teeth, stretching their neck as well as twisting their muzzle.
Though they do not have too many predators, their biggest threats come in the form of humans who may indulge in hunting these animals. Their territories are even occupied by mankind for agricultural and other purposes which may result in confrontation. The IUCN enlists six of the bear species as vulnerable. The African black and brown bear, which are under the least concern category, could even have chances of being extirpated in certain areas. Several laws have been implemented worldwide to conserve their habitats. The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries houses many wild pandas (30% of their population). Specialized organizations have developed worldwide for conserving several bear species like the Vital Ground (brown bear), Wildlife SOS (sloth bear), Moon Bears (Asiatic Black Bear), and Black Bear Conservation Coalition (North American Black Bear).
1. What are male and female bears called?
Male bears are known as boars, while the females are referred to as sows.
2. What is a baby bear called?
3. What are bears related to?
Being a part of the Caniformia suborder, bears are closely related to canids (dogs, coyotes, wolves, dingoes, jackals, and foxes), musteloids (carnivoran mammals) and pinnipeds (family of seals and other carnivorean aquatic mammals).
4. Are bears related to pigs?
No, as pigs belong to the Suidae family, sharing a closer relation to cattle, deer, giraffe, and camel.
5. What is the meaning of bear?
It derives its name from “bera,” an Old English word, literally translating to the brown one. There are other etymologies surrounding the animal as it also means a wild animal and a brave warrior.
6. What is the Latin name of bear?
Their family name Ursidae, comes from the Latin words Ursus (he-bear) and Ursa (she-bear).
7. What is a bear’s home called?
8. How long have bears been around?
For over 30 million years.