Bears are a magnificent example of nature’s power. Anyone who enters their domain respects them and fears them at the same time. Nowadays, bears can be found in woods and tundras all across the world. Most bears would either flee or attack if forced to come into contact with humans.
They are most prevalent in Asia, Europe, and North and South America. There may have been many more bear species, but there are currently just eight. Six of these eight species are either vulnerable or endangered.
You can find all the bear-related information you require in this article. Their species, classification schemes, and conservation initiatives are all included. Sometimes admiring a species from a distance is insufficient. Think about how you can help conserve all the bear species that are at risk of extinction.
Table of Contents
The 8 Species of Bears and their Distinctions
Because of their shared traits, bear species can continue to be classified as members of the same family. Each species and grouping, however, differ greatly from one another and are what distinguish them from one another.
For instance, a bear’s weight might vary based on its age and species from 60 to 1,600 lbs (27.2 to 725.7 kg). A bear can grow to a height of 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters) when standing.
All bear species are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and meat. They hunt and scavenge for food, yet they only kill what they require. They don’t need to kill other mammals very frequently because their bodies store protein and fat.
The American Black Bear is a prime illustration of this. When they are in hibernation, they can go for roughly 100 days without consuming any food or liquids, eliminating any waste, or even peeing.
They can preserve their energy to survive for half that time without experiencing much discomfort even when they are not in hibernation. Bears rely on the layer of fat that they accumulate during periods of abundance, such as the summer and early fall.
Are you interested in finding out more about the eight bear species that have endured through the ages? Continue reading to discover more about each species and a few of the subspecies that fall under them.
1. Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
There are several places where various subspecies of this bear type are genuinely found, even though the Grizzly bear subspecies may be the most well-known.
Alaska, Western Canada, and portions of Washington, Montana, and Wyoming are among them. That’s not all, either.
The species can also be found in remote areas of Asia and Europe, albeit the majority of them live in Russia.
Brown bears can be almost completely black in color or brown, light brown, or even a tint of blonde.
This size varies, however, depending on the bears’ environment and the amount of food that is readily available to them.
The largest bears, known as “Big Browns,” are situated between the Russian and Alaskan coasts, and they are nearly as large as their cousins, the Polar Bears.
The Grizzly Bear, which is mostly found in the Rocky Mountains of North America and mountainous areas of Europe, is well-known, but it is considerably smaller than other brown bear species.
It is important to remember that most bears today weigh far less than they did in the past since they are opportunistic feeders. In actuality, bears weighing more than 700 kg are currently quite uncommon.
Large brown bears are the norm. It’s challenging to generalize about their size because they have so many subspecies. They can weigh between 176 and 1,213 pounds (79.8 to 550.2 kgs).
The subspecies of the Brown Bear include:
- Tibetan Blue Bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus)
- Marsican Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos)
- California Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos californicus)
- Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
- Alaskan Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos alascensis)
- Kamchatka Brown Bear (Ursus arctos beringianus)
- East Siberian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos collaris)
- Atlas Bear (Ursus arctos Crowtheri)
- Dall Island Brown Bear (Ursus arctos dalli)
- Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear (Ursus arctos gyas)
- Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus)
- Ussuri Brown Bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus)
- Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorfii)
- Stickeen Brown Bear (Ursus arctos stikeenensis)
- Syrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus)
- ABC Islands Bear (Ursus arctos sitkensis)
When it comes to their conservation, the majority of brown bears in the world are categorized as Least Concern. Poaching occurs more commonly in some species, especially in Asia. Most Brown Bear populations contain at least 110,000 members.
2. Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus)
The Asiatic Black Bear, also known as the Himalayan Black Bear and the Moon Bear, features long fur and a crescent-shaped white patch that sets it apart from other bear species and gives it its name.
Huge ears and long fur around the shoulders and throat are other distinguishing characteristics.
Habitat regions include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Asiatic bears are more carnivorous than their American cousins since they live on a diet of tiny animals, mollusks, fish, birds, and carcasses. In reality, meat makes up a very little portion of this species’ diet. They mostly eat grasses, berries, fruits, seeds, honey, and insects for sustenance.
In the meantime, consuming nuts in the autumn helps these bears put on weight before the winter when they will hibernate in northern regions. The bears don’t hibernate in regions with warmer weather.
When compared to American Grizzly bears, these bears are substantially smaller. They weigh between 143 and 331 pounds (64.9 and 150.1 kg).
The Asian Black Bear subspecies includes:
- Formosan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus)
- Japanese Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus japonicus)
- Indochinese Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus mupinensis)
- Balochistan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus)
- Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger)
- Ussuri Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus ussuricus)
- Tibetan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus thibetanus)
The majority of the seven Asian Black Bear subspecies are threatened species. That indicates that there are no more than 50,000 bears in each population.
3. Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)
There are two subspecies of the sloth bear: the Indian sloth bear and the sloth bear of Sri Lanka.
Males normally weigh 80 to 140 kg, while females weigh, on average, 55 to 95 kg. The bears range in length from 140 to 190 cm.
Sloth bears have a U- or Y-shaped white mark on their breast. They also had big lips, lengthy tongues, pale noses, and long, shaggy black hair.
Their well-developed hook-like claws, which help the bears to dig for termites, are one distinguishing characteristic. When they gulp up insects, these bears are frequently audible from a great distance away.
Their habitat includes areas in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India. The habitat ranges of sloth bears and other sloths are shared. The typical male range is 13 square kilometers.
There are never any seasonal food shortages for sloth bears. Ants and termites, which are present all year long, are their primary food sources. Sloth Bears, on the other hand, are considerably smaller than most other bear species.
4. Giant Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
One of the best examples of how a species may be saved and brought back from extinction by human intervention may be the Giant Panda. The Giant Panda is a giant indeed, with a typical height of 5 feet and a tail that alone is 6 inches long. Males typically weigh roughly 113 kg, while females only weigh slightly less, 100 kg.
The degradation of habitats like deforestation is one of the key factors contributing to the Giant Panda’s population reduction. The species is currently exclusively found in six mountain ranges in China.
The Giant Panda was formerly thought to be linked to raccoons, but DNA research disproved that notion. Raccoons, red pandas, and even gigantic pandas have no connection to one another.
Bamboo is a favorite food of pandas. A panda must consume vast amounts of this nutritionally deficient diet (20 kg per day) to survive.
Pandas have an additional finger on each hand to help them consume bamboo. This aids in tearing the bamboo, and a very thick mucus lining in their gut guards against bamboo splinters entering the stomach.
The newborn panda is pink, hairless, and blind. They are about 1/900th the mother panda’s size.
One of the bear species that does not hibernate is the panda, which prefers to go to lower elevations in the winter and higher elevations in the summer.
5. Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
Only the South American Andes mountain range is home to the Spectacled or Andean Bear.
The South American government has ruled that it is illegal to kill the Florida Spectacled Bears’ sole surviving relatives since they are an endangered species.
The Andean bears, which are designated as “Vulnerable,” are the last of the short-faced bear species that lived from the Middle Pleistocene to the Late Pleistocene.
They are the only surviving member of the Tremarctinae subfamily and are native to South America.
Although omnivores like all other bear species, just 5% of the diet of spectacled bears is composed of meat. Despite this, the Spectacled Bear is regarded as South America’s biggest land carnivore.
The Spectacled Bear, known for being a medium-sized species of bear, does not always have the spectacle markings that give it its name. However, the face and upper chest of every bear in this species have these distinctive beige markings.
These bears often have black fur, but they can also be jet black, have a reddish undertone, or even be dark brown in some cases. Each bear has distinctive patterns and markings that make it simple to tell one bear from another.
The average male bear weighs between 100 and 150 pounds, whereas females typically weigh between 35 and 82 kg. Since these bears only stand 120 to 200 cm tall, their height further demonstrates their tiny stature.
The faces of Andean bears are more rounded, and their noses are short and broad. This suggests that the species had a far more carnivorous diet than the Andean Bear of today, which eats primarily plants.
6. Sun bears (Ursus malayanus)
The classic sun bear is a diminutive and, let’s face it, charming little animal. These bears are regarded as belonging to the smallest bear species that exists.
They only reach a height of 120 to 150 cm and a weight range of 27 to 65 kg. Nevertheless, men tend to weigh more than women.
Sun bears, or Ursus malayanus as they are also known, are diminutive animals with fur that repels water. Typically, their fur is either black or dark brown.
The fact that sun bears have a vivid golden crescent on their chest is what makes them so special. The name of this species comes from this specific characteristic.
Sun bears are the only bears with long sickle-shaped claws and the longest canine teeth relative to their size. The fact that these bears aren’t typically carnivorous, however, is astounding.
Even though their huge canines are made to tear through flesh, they are more often employed to fight off predators or to bite trees to reach insects.
The flexible snout and long tongue of these bears, which primarily consume insects, are excellent adaptations for the task.
Due to these modifications, removing termite nests is very simple for the bears.
Southeast Asia is home to sun bears, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, and Thailand.
The sun bear has two subspecies. Due to the ocean’s isolation of the inhabitants between the Indonesian islands, they evolved individually. Among these subspecies are:
- Bornean Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus)
- Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus malayanus)
7. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
Although it is a subspecies of the brown bear, it has changed over time to fit its current lifestyle and habitat. Seals make up the majority of a polar bear’s diet.
The Polar Bear is one of the largest bear species in the world, with males weighing up to 800 kg.
Polar bears’ typical weight can vary, although bears located in the Ontario region often weigh 500 kg.
The largest bear ever found in the area was captured alive and weighed about 654 kg.
Although some can weigh up to 400 kg, female adult polar bears are substantially smaller, with average weights barely reaching 300 kg. But the latter is the exception, not the rule.
Polar bears are good swimmers despite being born on land, and they spend a significant portion of their life swimming in the icy waters of the Arctic Circle.
8. North American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
The Ursus Americanus, or North American Black Bear, is the most prevalent bear species on the North American continent. Its habitat ranges from Alaska and Canada to Florida.
While the majority of North American black bears are brown and black, some are blue-black and white.
White bears are, however, not very frequent, especially outside of Canada’s British Columbia region.
The black bear is categorized as a herbivore because the majority of its diet consists of plants, although it will occasionally consume meat.
By the time they are 8 years old, male North American bears are at their full size and weight, which is typically at least 280kg. Nevertheless, depending on where they are found, females mature at various ages.
For instance, females in the boreal forests will breed and give birth to cubs when they are between the ages of 5 and 7. In the province of Ontario, female black bears reach adulthood at the age of eight years.
Black bears live an average of 25 years, however, some experts think this is an arbitrary age.
This is due to the observation of older bears, particularly in the wild; nevertheless, many bears succumb to hunting and other human activities and do not live to their full potential.
The subspecies of Black Bear include:
- Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei)
- Olympic Black Bear (Ursus americanus altifrontalis)
- New Mexico Black Bear (Ursus americanus amblyceps)
- California Black Bear (Ursus americanus californiensis)
- Eastern Black Bear (Ursus americanus americanus)
- Cinnamon Bear (Ursus americanus cinnamonum)
- Haida Gwaii Black Bear (Ursus americanus carlottae)
- East Mexican Black Bear (Ursus americanus eremicus)
- Glacier Bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii)
- Newfoundland Black Bear (Ursus americanus hamiltoni)
- Florida Black Bear (Ursus americanus floridanus)
- Vancouver Island Black Bear (Ursus americanus vancouveri)
- Kenai Black Bear (Ursus americanus perniger)
- Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)
- West Mexican Black Bear (Ursus americanus machetes)
- Dall Island Black Bear (Ursus americanus pugnax)
How Many Species of Bears are There?
There are eight different kinds of bears: big pandas, polar bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears (also known as Andean bears), sun bears, and Asiatic black bears, sometimes known as moon bears. Brown bears, which include grizzly bears, giant pandas, and North American black bears are the other species. Bears can live up to 25 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity, on average.
The 8 Species of Bears and their Distinctions – FAQs
Do bears attack humans?
Attacks against humans have happened, however infrequently, and have resulted in fatalities and severe injuries. Every bear and every experience is different; no one tactic will always be effective and ensure safety. The majority of bear encounters are non-fatal.
Can I domesticate any specie of bear?
The answer is no, you domesticate a bear in fact, a domesticated bear does not exist.
Some bears are quite popular but, as we have seen, there are other species of bears that if not looked into and taken care of, can easily go to extinction. So, let’s fight to save our bears and by extension our environment.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.