Asiatic Black Bear

SUBFAMILY URSINAE

Ursus thibetanus


APPEARANCE This medium-sized, black-colored bear has a light-ish muzzle and ears which appear large in proportion to the rest of its head, especially when compared with other species of bears. There is a distinct white patch on the chest , which is sometimes in the shape of a V, and white on the chin. A brown color phase also occurs.

SIZE There is limited information available on these bears, but total length of adults is 130 to 190 centimeters (50 to 75 inches). Adult males range from 100 to 200 kilograms (220 to 440 pounds) and adult females from 50 to 125 kilograms (110 to 275 pounds).

HABITAT Asiatic black bears live predominantly in forested areas, especially in hills and mountainous areas. In summer, they have been reported at altitudes over 3,000 meters (9,900 feet), descending to lower elevations during winter. Apparently, they den for winter sleep in the northern parts of their range. It has been suggested that in the southern limits of their range, where it is quite hot, they do not undergo winter sleep, but this has not been confirmed.

DISTRIBUTION Asiatic black bears are found over a wide area of southern Asia. They occur along the mountains from Afghanistan, through Pakistan and northern India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, into Burma and northeastern China. They are also found in southeastern Russia, and on Taiwan and the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku.

REPRODUCTION There is little detailed information on reproduction in Asiatic black bears, but there seem to be differences between populations in southwestern and southeastern Asia. Sexual maturity of females is thought to occur at three to four years of age. In Russia, mating is reported to occur in June and July, with births occurring between December and March. In Pakistan, mating has been reported to occur in October, with young being born in February. Cubs are weaned at less than six months old, but may stay with their mothers for two to three years. Females have sometimes been reported with cubs of different ages.

SOCIAL SYSTEM In Russia, the home range is reported to be 10 to 20 square kilometers (4 to 8 square miles). Little information is available on social organization. The bears are reported to be mainly nocturnal, sleeping in trees or caves during the day.

DIET Asiatic black bears have been reported to feed on a wide range of foods, including fruits, bees' nests, insects, invertebrates, small vertebrates, and carrion. They occasionally kill domestic livestock, but the degree to which they prey on wild hoofed mammals in unknown. In fall they frequently make crude leafy feeding platforms in nut-bearing trees.

Image by David Kirshner
From Ian Stirling, ed. Bears,
Majestic Creatures of the Wild.
Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 1993. 240 pages.