The most widespread species is the brown bear, which occurs from Western Europe eastwards through Asia to the western areas of North America. The American black bear is restricted to North America, and the polar bear is restricted to the Arctic Sea. All the remaining species of bear are Asian. Brown and American black bears are generally diurnal , meaning that they are active for the most part during the day, though they may forage substantially by night. The only times bears are encountered in small groups are mothers with young or occasional seasonal bounties of rich food such as salmon runs.
They use olfaction to locate other foods, encounter mates, avoid rivals and recognise their cubs. Most bears are opportunistic omnivores and consume more plant than animal matter. They eat anything from leaves, roots, and berries to insects , carrion , fresh meat, and fish, and have digestive systems and teeth adapted to such a diet.
However, all bears feed on any food source that becomes seasonally available. When foraging for plants, bears choose to eat them at the stage when they are at their most nutritious and digestible, typically avoiding older grasses , sedges and leaves. Its strong jaws are adapted for crushing the tough stems of these plants, though they prefer to eat the more nutritious leaves. The sloth bear, though not as specialised as polar bears and the panda, has lost several front teeth usually seen in bears, and developed a long, suctioning tongue to feed on the ants , termites , and other burrowing insects they favour.
Typically, a bear plunges into the water and seizes a fish with its jaws or front paws. The preferred parts to eat are the brain and eggs. Small burrowing mammals like rodents may be dug out and eaten. The brown bear and both species of black bears sometimes take large ungulates, such as deer and bovids , mostly the young and weak. They primarily eat the highly digestible blubber.
Bears are prolific scavengers and kleptoparasites , stealing food caches from rodents, and carcasses from other predators. Bears produce a number of vocal and non-vocal sounds. Tongue-clicking, grunting or chuffing many be made in cordial situations, such as between mothers and cubs or courting couples, while moaning, huffing, sorting or blowing air is made when an individual is stressed.
Barking is produced during times of alarm, excitement or to give away the animal's position. Warning sounds include jaw-clicking and lip-popping, while teeth-chatters, bellows, growls, roars and pulsing sounds are made in aggressive encounters. Cubs may squeal, bawl, bleat or scream when in distress and make motor-like humming when comfortable or nursing. Bears sometimes communicate with visual displays such as standing upright , which exaggerates the individual's size.
The chest markings of some species may add to this intimidating display.
Staring is an aggressive act and the facial markings of spectacled bears and giant pandas may help draw attention to the eyes during agonistic encounters. Dominance between bears is asserted by making a frontal orientation, showing the canine teeth , muzzle twisting and neck stretching. A subordinate may respond with a lateral orientation, by turning away and dropping the head and by sitting or lying down. Bears may mark territory by rubbing against trees and other objects which may serve to spread their scent. This is usually accompanied by clawing and biting the object.
Bark may be spread around to draw attention to the marking post. The mating system of bears has variously been described as a form of polygyny , promiscuity and serial monogamy. A male bear may visit a female continuously over a period of several days or weeks, depending on the species, to test her reproductive state. During this time period, males try to prevent rivals from interacting with their mate. Courtship may be brief, although in some Asian species, courting pairs may engage in wrestling, hugging, mock fighting and vocalising. Ovulation is induced by mating , which can last up to 30 minutes depending on the species.
Gestation typically lasts 6—9 months, including delayed implantation , and litter size numbers up to four cubs. Cubs are born blind and helpless with at most a thin layer of hair, relying on their mother for warmth. The milk of the female bear is rich in fat and antibodies and cubs may suckle for up to a year after they are born. By 2—3 months, cubs can follow their mother outside the den. They usually follow her on foot, but sloth bear cubs may ride on their mother's back.
Infanticide , where an adult male kills the cubs of another, has been recorded in polar bears, brown bears and American black bears but not in other species. In some species, offspring may become independent around the next spring, through some may stay until the female successfully mates again. Bears reach sexual maturity shortly after they disperse; at around 3—6 years depending on the species. Male Alaskan brown bears and polar bears may continue to grow until they are 11 years old. The brown bear can live an average of 25 years. Bears of northern regions, including the American black bear and the grizzly bear , hibernate in the winter.
Bears do not have many predators. The most important are humans, and as they started cultivating crops, they increasingly came in conflict with the bears that raided them. Since the invention of firearms, people have been able to kill bears with greater ease. Bears are parasitized by eighty species of parasites, including single-celled protozoans and gastro-intestinal worms, and nematodes and flukes in their heart, liver, lungs and bloodstream.
Subspecies A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species. Hibernation usually occurs in a den or cave made by the bear. This page was last edited on 9 September , at Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. The populations in Pakistan are slow reproducing, small, and declining because of habitat loss, fragmentation, poaching, and bear-baiting.
Externally they have ticks, fleas and lice. A study of American black bears found seventeen species of endoparasite including the protozoan Sarcocystis , the parasitic worm Diphyllobothrium mansonoides , and the nematodes Dirofilaria immitis , Capillaria aerophila , Physaloptera sp. The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii has been found in polar bears, and the nematode Trichinella nativa can cause a serious infection and decline in older polar bears.
In modern times, bears have come under pressure through encroachment on their habitats  and illegal trade in bear parts, including the Asian bile bear market, though hunting is now banned, largely replaced by farming.
In general these two species inhabit remote areas with little interaction with humans, and the main non-natural causes of mortality are hunting, trapping, road-kill and depredation. Laws have been passed in many areas of the world to protect bears from habitat destruction. Public perception of bears is often positive, as people identify with bears due to their omnivorous diets, their ability to stand on two legs, and their symbolic importance.
Several bear species are dangerous to humans , especially in areas where they have become used to people; elsewhere, they generally avoid humans. Injuries caused by bears are rare, but are widely reported. Bears in captivity have for centuries been used for entertainment. They have been trained to dance ,  and were kept for baiting in Europe at least since the 16th century. There were five bear-baiting gardens in Southwark , London at that time; archaeological remains of three of these have survived. Bears have been hunted for sport, food, and folk medicine. Their meat is dark and stringy, like a tough cut of beef.
In Cantonese cuisine , bear paws are considered a delicacy. Bear meat should be cooked thoroughly, as it can be infected with the parasite Trichinella spiralis. The peoples of eastern Asia use bears' body parts and secretions notably their gallbladders and bile as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
More than 12, bears are thought to be kept on farms in China, Vietnam, and South Korea for the production of bile. Trade in bear products is prohibited under CITES , but bear bile has been detected in shampoos, wine and herbal medicines sold in Canada, the United States and Australia. There is evidence of prehistoric bear worship , though this is disputed by archaeologists. In Korean mythology, a tiger and a bear prayed to Hwanung , the son of the Lord of Heaven, that they might become human.
Upon hearing their prayers, Hwanung gave them 20 cloves of garlic and a bundle of mugwort , ordering them to eat only this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for days. The tiger gave up after about twenty days and left the cave. However, the bear persevered and was transformed into a woman. The bear and the tiger are said to represent two tribes that sought the favor of the heavenly prince.
However, she lacked a husband, and soon became sad and prayed beneath a "divine birch " tree Hangul: Hwanung, moved by her prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a son named Dangun Wanggeom — who was the legendary founder of Gojoseon , the first ever Korean kingdom. Evidence of her worship has notably been found at Bern , itself named for the bear. Her name is derived from the Celtic word for "bear", artos. The constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor , the great and little bears, are named for their supposed resemblance to bears, from the time of Ptolemy.
These are found on both sides of the Bering land bridge , which was lost to the sea some 11, years ago. Pliny the Elder 's Natural History 1st century AD claims that "when first born, [bears] are shapeless masses of white flesh, a little larger than mice; their claws alone being prominent. The mother then licks them gradually into proper shape.
Bears are mentioned in the Bible ; the Second Book of Kings relates the story of the prophet Elisha calling on them to eat the youths who taunted him. In the arms of the bishopric of Freising , the bear is the dangerous totem animal tamed by St. Corbinian and made to carry his civilised baggage over the mountains. Bears similarly feature in the legends of St. Romedius , Saint Gall and Saint Columbanus. This recurrent motif was used by the Church as a symbol of the victory of Christianity over paganism.
Bears, like other animals, may symbolize nations. In , the British satirical magazine Punch published a cartoon about the Anglo-Russian Entente by Leonard Raven-Hill in which the British lion watches as the Russian bear sits on the tail of the Persian cat. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the carnivoran mammals.
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Polar bear Ursus maritimus earlier Thalarctos maritimus. Asian black bear Ursus thibetanus earlier Selenarctos thibetanus. Wikispecies has information related to ursus. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ursus genus. Atilax Marsh mongoose A. Crocuta Spotted hyena C. Large family listed below. Small family listed below. Chrotogale Owston's palm civet C. Prionodon Banded linsang P. Civettictis African civet C. Galidia Ring-tailed mongoose G. Conepatus Hog-nosed skunks Molina's hog-nosed skunk C. Bassaricyon Olingos Eastern lowland olingo B. Ailurus Red panda A.