Types of Bears

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    There are eight types of bears in the world. For many years scientists wondered whether the panda was more like the raccoon family or more like the bear family. In about the last ten years, DNA studies have shown that that giant panda is more closely related to the bear. Books published before that time may still list only seven species of bear, because the giant panda was not included in the list. As you study bears, you might be surprised to find some things you thought were true about bears are not. For instance, most bears are not the fierce predators we are often led to believe.

American Black Bear
Brown Bear
Polar Bear
Giant Pandas
Image appears courtesy of 
National Geographic
Image appears courtesy of 
Image appears courtesy of 
Sierra Club
Image appears courtesy of 
National Zoological Park
  • about 5 - 6 feet long
  • usually between 200 - 300 pounds
  • smallest bears of North America
  • can be black, brown (cinnamon bear), creamy  white (spirit or Kermode bear), or gray-blue (glacier bear)
  • can run up to 25 miles an hour when chasing prey
  • skillful tree climbers
  • live mostly in northern United States and in Canada
  • usually 6 - 8 feet long
  • weighs 350 - 500 pounds
  • includes Kodiak bear (world's largest land carnivore) and grizzlies (brown with silver-tipped hairs)
  • very smart
  • have hump of fat and muscle on backs
  • powerful
  • live in Canada and Alaska and northern Eurasia
  • males 8 - 11 feet long
  • males sometimes over 1000 pounds
  • world's biggest bears
  • best swimmers of all the bears
  • black skin and clear fur that appears white
  • eat seals, young walruses, and fish
  • layer of blubber
  • long, wide feet good for swimming and walking on snow and ice
  • live in regions bordering the Arctic Circle
  • usually 4- 6 feet long
  • may weigh up to 350 pounds
  • striking black and white markings
  • cannot walk on hind legs
  • only about 1000 wild pandas left due to habitat being destroyed
  • spends about 14 hours a day eating 
  • eats about 50 - 60 pounds of bamboo a day
  • found only in central mountains of China
Asiatic Black Bear Sloth Bear Spectacled Bear Sun Bear
Image appears courtesy of
 Image appears courtesy of 
photographer Ed Sawyer
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Image appears courtesy of
  • usually about 5 feet long
  • weigh about 250 pounds
  • smaller than American black bears
  • black with white hairs on chin and a large white "V" on the chest
  • make beds of twigs in snow to sun selves
  • build nestlike beds in trees in summer
  • more fierce than most other bears
  • also called moon bear
  • live in southern and eastern Asia
  • about 5 feet long
  • weighs 200 - 300 pounds
  • has long white snout with lips that allow it to suck up ants and termites
  • long, shaggy black coat
  • white mark on chest
  • cubs ride on mother's back
  • named for unusually slow movements
  • eat ants, termites, and bees
  • live in tropical forests of India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal
  • about 5 feet long
  • weigh 200 - 300 pounds
  • black or blackish brown coat
  • muzzle, throat, and chest cream colored
  • golden rings around eyes
  • build nests in trees
  • scarce because of overhunting and destruction of habitat
  • live in northwestern South America in remote forests of the Andes
  • only bears found in South America
  • about 3 - 4 feet long
  • weigh about 60 - 100 pounds
  • smallest of all bears
  • short velvety black coat
  • yellow or white markings on chest shaped like rising sun
  • grayish or orange nose
  • sleep during the day
  • eat insects and fruit
  • also called Malayan bear
  • endangered because of poaching and loss of their forest habitat
  • live in tropical forests of southeast Asia
This site tells about all eight kinds of bears.
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A. Meyerhorn     copyright 2001
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