10 Cool things about the Asiatic black bear

1. American Family

The Asiatic black bear also has a cousin in America – the American black bear. While most Asiatic bears sport the creamy white chest crescent, only around 25% of American black bears have this marking.

2. High on the mountain

The bear makes his home in many Asian countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, southeast Russia and north-eastern China to Japan. They enjoy a mountainous habitat and are often seen at high altitudes but may move to lower areas during the harsh northern hemisphere winters. They have a home territory of about 20km² and may meet the giant panda or brown bears in their territory.

3. Winter sleep

Not all Asiatic black bears hibernate. Some bears, especially those found in very northern territories, will sleep all winter, others only hibernate during very cold months. Those in more southern areas will move even further south to avoid the cold weather. When Asiatic bears do hibernate their heart rate drops to around 12 beats per minute (40 to 70 beats are normal). This helps to conserve heat. Their body temperatures only drop a few degrees Celsius and they are easily woken. Some scientists do not consider this a true hibernation.

4. Little cubs

After a pregnancy of seven or eight months, between one and three cubs are born inside the winter den. The cubs rely on their mother for food as they are tiny and blind at birth. The mother bear’s milk is rich in fat and the cubs grow quickly.

Photo: Anan Kaewkhammul

5. A day in the life of a bear

Asiatic black bears are generally diurnal, but they have their most active periods at sunrise and sunset. As the winter approaches they will also feed after the sun goes down. Black bears sleep in trees or in a cosy cave.

6. Moon bear

The Asiatic black bear is also known as the Asian black bear or the Himalayan bear. He also has another common name – the moon bear. Look carefully at his chest. Do you see the white moonshaped mark? Perfect for his nickname. There are several subspecies of Asiatic bear found in different areas of their habitat.

7. Beautiful in black

This is a medium-sized bear with a total body length of around 1.5 to 1.9m. They weigh between 110 and 200kg. Females are smaller than males. The bear is covered in smooth, black fur and has a white crescent-shaped marking on his chest. The Asiatic black bear has large ears and a round head. His claws are very sharp and curved and he uses them during feeding and for tree climbing. Asiatic black bears are avid tree climbers, good swimmers and have an outstanding sense of hearing, sight and smell. They can also be very aggressive towards humans.

8. Conservation

The Asiatic black bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN list. Sadly, their habitats are widely under threat. They are also hunted illegally for their body parts, including skin, paws and gall bladder. The World Wildlife Fund works hard to stop this illegal hunting and the trafficking of this beautiful bear.

9. Growing up with mom

The family leaves the den when the cubs are about eight weeks old. They remain with mom until they are two or three years old. Asiatic bears are solitary. Only mothers and cubs are seen together. Males (called boars) and females (called sows) meet briefly to mate. They do scent mark their territories to communicate with other bears in their range.

10. Big bear larder

The Asiatic bear is considered an omnivore even though he enjoys a more vegetarian diet. He will destroy a beehive to get honey and feast on fruit, plants, tree bark and nuts. He will also eat insects, fish, small vertebrates and mammals as he finds them. The Asiatic black bear’s sense of smell is so acute, he is able to find worms or insects at a depth of 1m underground! He will also eat carrion if he stumbles upon a carcass. During the summer months black bears eat plenty of food to pile on kilograms to help them through the winter.


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