The Asiatic black bear ranges throughout much of southern and eastern Asia. It is smaller than the American black bear and lives mainly on fruit and nuts. The sun bear of the Malay Peninsula, sometimes called the Malay bear, is the smallest of all bears. It eats mostly fruit and honey. The sloth bear, or honey bear, of India and Sri Lanka has long, shaggy fur. It uses its long snout and sticky tongue to feed on ants. The spectacled bear of South America is found in the Andes Mountains. It is so called because of yellowish rings around the eyes.
The Asiatic black bear is sometimes called a moon bear because of the marking on its chest. The marking looks like a crescent moon. This bear also has fur of a lighter color on its lower lip and chin.
Asiatic black bears are about the same size as American black bears. But the Asiatic black bears have shiny black fur. They also have thick manes around their faces. A mane may grow to be 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.
Asiatic black bears hunt large and small mammals, including farm animals. They also eat ants and other insects, fruits, nuts, and berries.
Both American and Asiatic black bears climb very well. Their claws are strong and short—only about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) long. The claws are also sharply curved. This helps the bears climb trees with ease.Trees are important to both kinds of black bears. Mothers often send their cubs up trees to protect them. Sometimes Asiatic black bears make day beds in trees. They rest in the trees during the day and come down to feed at night.Both American and some Asiatic black bears go into a winter sleep when the weather gets cold. They do this because food is hard to find then. Other Asiatic black bears that live in warm climates do not sleep through the winter. They never run out of food.
The sloth bear looks a lot like the slow-moving, tree-dwelling animal called a sloth. In fact, it looks so much like the sloth that scientists in the late 1700’s called it a “bearlike sloth.” After further study, the scientists realized their mistake and named it “sloth bear.”
Like all bears, a sloth bear has a heavy body and rounded ears. Its tail is short, but it is longer than that of many bears. A sloth bear has long black fur and a light-colored patch on its chest.
Sloth bears are more social than other bears. They communicate with facial expressions and a variety of sounds. Sloth bears roar, howl, squeal, yelp, huff, rattle, and gurgle. Mothers often carry cubs on their backs (just as sloths do) until the babies are quite large.
Sloth bears move with a low, shuffling walk. This makes them look lazy. But, when they are alarmed, they can gallop faster than a person can run.
Sloth bears are not at all lazy when it comes to finding food. They work hard to find it. Their big feet and long, curved claws make them good diggers. Sloth bears have no incisors, or front teeth, and the roofs of their mouths are hollowed out. This creates a vacuum effect that helps the sloth bear suck up its favorite food—termites.
Sloth bears dig into hard, tall termite pillars. A sloth bear inserts its snout, blows away the dust, and sucks the insects into its mouth. The sucking noise is so loud that it can be heard 200 yards (183 meters) away.
No, spectacled bears do not wear spectacles, or eyeglasses. But these bears do have white or tan markings around their eyes. These markings make the bears look as if they are wearing glasses.
A spectacled bear’s markings are as special as a person’s fingerprints. No two bears have the same markings.The spectacled bear has the same shaggy coat and heavy body that most bears have. But it has white markings on its neck and chest. Like other bears, the spectacled bear has a short tail and rounded ears.
Like most bears, the spectacled bear likes honey. But it also likes its veggies. It feeds mostly on such things as corn, palm leaves, cactus, and sugar cane, as well as fruits and nuts. This bear has very strong jaws, so it can chew things that other animals may not want to bother with.
Spectacled bears find much of their food in trees. They use their sharp claws to climb trees. Often the bears move from tree to tree as fruits ripen. They may spend three or four days eating the fruit of one tree before moving on to the next.
Spectacled bears raid farmers’ crops and attack their beehives. Farmers don’t like these bears. But spectacled bears are important to the forests in which they live. They scatter the seeds of trees and other plants.
Bears will survive only if they have habitats in which to live. Grizzlies, for example, used to roam over large parts of North America. Now they live mostly in western Canada and Alaska. Sloth bears, sun bears, and spectacled bears are also losing their forest homes.
But there is good news for some bears—polar bears. So many of these bears had been hunted that people got worried. In 1973, five countries where polar bears live signed an agreement. As a result, polar bears are now protected by law.
There is hope for other bears, too. Conservationists are setting aside land so that these wild creatures have places to live. Many zoos now have bear-breeding programs for endangered animals. Zoos all over the world are beginning to work together to help preserve these magnificent animals.
Bears make up the family Ursidae of the mammalian order Carnivora. The American black bear is Ursus americanus; the brown bear, U. arctos; the grizzly bear, U. a. horribilis; the Kodiak bear, U. a. middendorffi; Kermode's bear, U. a. kermodei; the polar bear, Ursus maritimus; the Asiatic black bear, Selenarctos thibetanus; the sun bear, Helarctos malayanus; the sloth bear, Melursus ursinus; the spectacled bear, Tremarctos ornatus. Some biologists place all bears, except for the spectacled bear, in the genus Ursus.