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Bears

Other Black-colored Bears

The Asiatic black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus) is a black-colored animal with a white crescent on its chest; an alternative name is moon bear. The hair around its neck is considerably longer than elsewhere on the body. A male may weigh up to 350 lb (159 kg), while females usually weigh less than 200 lb (91 kg). This bear inhabits mountain forests from Afghanistan, across China to Japan, and south to Southeast Asia.

The Asiatic black bear is generally nocturnal, but will sometimes venture out in the daytime to feed on sunwarmed fruit. It is also an opportunistic predator, and can kill fairly large animals by breaking the neck. Northern populations of Asiatic black bears sleep away the winter, but in warmer parts of their range they remain active year-round. They mate in the autumn, and the cubs are born 3-4 months later. The cubs are weaned by four months of age, much earlier than in other species of bears.

The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest species of bear, with some adults weighing less than 100 lb (45 kg). It has black fur, a whitish snout, and often a whitish or orange, U-shaped mark on the chest. It has a much longer tongue than other bears, which is used to lap honey, bees, or termites from their nests. They also eat a wide variety of tropical fruits. The sun bear is a tropical species, found in rainforest from southern China to Borneo and Sumatra. Sun bears climb trees well, and often build nests by breaking and bending branches together. Cubs are born at any time of the year, after a gestation of 14 weeks.

The sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) of India and other countries in South Asia has the longest hair in the bear family, although its belly is almost hairless. Otherwise, it looks much like the Asiatic black bear. However, it has several distinctive behavioral traits: it carries its young on its back, and the male remains with the female to help raise the cubs. The sloth bear has long, strong claws, which are used to break open termite nests during feeding.

The spectacled or Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is the only species in South America. It occurs in the Andean region, even living above 14,000 ft (4,300 m). It has a whitish, eyeglasses-shaped pattern around its eyes and a band of white on its neck and chest. It climbs trees well and may sleep in them. Male spectacled bears may reach a head-body length of almost 6 ft (1.8 m) and a weight of 400 lb (182 kg). In profile, they have a shorter nose than other bears.

The spectacled bear is primarily nocturnal, sleeping during the day in an excavated cavity or under tree roots. At night, it often climbs high into trees to feed on fruit. If it finds a good supply and decides to stay a while, it will build a platform of branches as a nest. They are an endangered species, with fewer than 2,000 remaining in the wild. An international program has succeeded in breeding them in captivity.


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