The 8 Most Endangered Bears 

Did you know that there are currently eight species of bears in the world, and many of them are facing extinction? 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 6 out of the eight bear species are considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.

Bears exist in different shapes and sizes, ranging from 4 feet and 60 pounds to a whopping 8 feet and over 1000 pounds! Bears are understandably the largest land-dwelling animals and can be found almost everywhere on the Earth, namely Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Unfortunately, their populations are still low, with less than 1800 Giant Panda species left, followed by Sun Bear, whose population has declined more than 30% over the past three decades.

Today, we’re going to talk about the eight endangered bear species, why they’re important for our ecosystem, and the reasons for their decline. 

So come with us while we explore the world of bears.

Habitat

Bears are a unique group of animals because they’ve adapted to survive in a wide range of environments. Over the years, they’ve evolved different physical characteristics, enabling them to thrive in extremely warm and cold temperatures. 

For example, polar bears have thick fur and a layer of blubber to keep them warm in the freezing Arctic.

Today, bears look pretty different from each other even though they all come from the same ancestor 25 million years ago in Africa. As they migrated to different parts of the world, they adapted accordingly, like North American bears have long legs and slim bodies so that they can run and climb better.

Even though bears exist in all continents except Antarctica, it’s important to note they’re still facing endangerment everywhere. 

Before we talk about the endangered bear species, let’s have a look at the importance of their role in our planet.

Bears as Ecosystem Engineers

Bears have a significant impact on their environment and are considered to be ecosystem engineers. They play a vital role in supporting the food webs and maintaining the population of other animals through predation and seed dispersals through excretion

If bears were to become extinct, it would have an effect on these things:

1. Fertility of Soil

Bear’s love for fish is beneficial for the forest as the fish leftovers are dragged on the soil by the Bear. Additionally, the faecal matter on the forest floor enriches the soil, too, working as a natural fertilizer.

2. Maintaining a Balance of the Ecosystem

If it weren’t for bears, there would be dead animals everywhere in the forest. Even though bears don’t decompose them, they help out by eating them. 

Also, since bears are natural predators, they help keep the forest in balance by keeping the numbers of animals like deer, calves, and bucks from getting too high.

3. Dispersal of Seeds

Bears actually play a big role in spreading seeds around! When they eat fruits, the seeds don’t get broken down and come out in their excretion.

This means that they spread the seeds all over the place, which helps new plants grow. Black bears are especially good as they munch on a lot of fruit and plants.

4. Improving Agricultural Yield

Bears love chowing down on bugs in the forest, which helps keep their numbers down. This also means that there are fewer weeds, so we don’t need to use as many pesticides. 

This is good for our wallets and also means we don’t have to worry about health problems that might be caused by those chemicals.

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Endangered Bear Species

1. Giant panda

Did you know that giant pandas are the most endangered bear species, with only about 1000-2000 left in the wild? 

Even though these species are super protected by the law in China, they’re still facing some big problems. One of the biggest is habitat fragmentation and deforestation.

Initially, scientists used to think pandas were part of the raccoon family, but then they did some DNA testing and found out they were wrong! It’s no secret that Pandas love bamboo, but not many are aware of the extra finger that helps them tear it up. Pandas also have a special lining in their stomachs that keeps them from getting hurt by the bamboo splinters.

Even though baby pandas are tiny and helpless when they’re born, they still need to eat a TON of food every day.

Pandas also don’t hibernate as other bears do. Instead, they just move up and down the mountains to stay warm or cool, depending on the season.

2. Sun Bear

Sun bears are in big trouble in Southeast Asia. Over the last 30 years, there have been almost 30% fewer of them. 

They’re also the smallest of the bear species. They have black or dark brown fur that repels water, and they sport a bright crescent mark on their chest. These cute little bears have flexible snouts and super long tongues, which they use to extract termites from their nests. 

Fun fact: they have the longest tongues of all bear species!

Their paws are strong and have curved claws, which are handy for digging and climbing trees. Even though they have the biggest canines relative to their size, they’re not big meat-eaters. Instead, they use their sharp teeth to defend themselves or to tear through trees to get to insects.

Sun bears live in Southeast Asia, in countries like China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

3. Asiatic Black Bear

According to ICUN, the number of Asiatic black bears has decreased by around 30 to 49 per cent over the last three decades, and this decline is likely to continue over the next 30 years.

Along with being hunted for their skins and paws, they’re often trapped for the purpose of bear bile farming, which involves inhumane and painful treatment prevalent in countries like China, Korea, and Vietnam.

These bears are known for their black fur and a distinct white patch on their chest, shaped like a crescent moon. 

Asiatic Black bears can be found in countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Japan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Russia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Compared to bears in the Americas, they are more carnivorous but still consume a small portion of meat, and their diet mainly consists of grass, fruits, berries, seeds, insects, and honey. 

4. Sloth Bear

Sloth Bears were classified as “vulnerable” by the IUCN in 1990, and today only 20,000 of them remain. 

In the past, many were taken from the wild to be used as “dancing bears” in India, but thankfully the last dancing bears were relocated to sanctuaries. 

However, other threats still persist for sloth bears. In addition to deforestation, human settlements, and monoculture farming practices, sloth bears are also killed for their body parts and fat, used in traditional medicines and as spiritual talismans. 

Sloth bears are native to Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. They have shaggy black hair and a distinct white marking on their chest, usually in the shape of a Y or U. 

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They also have long tongues, pale noses, and hooked claws that help them climb trees and dig for termites. Sloth bears can suck up termites from a long distance. 

5. Andean Bear

Listed as vulnerable by the IUCN since 1973, only 20,000 of them exist today, according to a rough guess by a scientist.

Spectacled bears, or what scientists like calling them ‘Andean Bears’, are only found in the Andes mountains of South America. 

Although the Spectacled Bear is the largest land carnivore on the continent, meat makes up only 5% of its diet. Its fur can be blackish, ranging from dark black to dark brown, with a hint of reddish tone. Some bears have beige-coloured patterns on their faces and upper chest.

Compared to other bears, the Spectacled Bear has a more rounded face and a relatively short, wide nose. 

6. Polar Bear

When talking about endangered animals, Polar Bear might be the first one to come to your mind.

Polar bears are the biggest carnivores on land and have been around for about 600,000 years. With only about 20,000 to 25000 remaining, it’s estimated that almost two-thirds of polar bears may vanish by 2050 because of melting sea ice.

On average, male polar bears in Ontario weigh around 500 kg (1,100 lbs), while adult female bears are smaller and weigh roughly 300 kg (660 lbs) on average, with a peak weight of 400 kg (880 lbs).

7. North American Black Bear

The American Black Bear is the least of concern, being at risk of extinction, according to the IUCN. However, some subspecies of this Bear have been considered endangered, including the Ursus americanus luteolus and Ursus americanus floridanus.

Quite apparent by its name, the Black Bear is commonly found in North America, specifically in Florida, Canada, and Alaska. Their color phases are typically black or brown, but some also have white phases found in certain parts of British Columbia and Canada.

Being omnivorous, black bears usually eat vegetables. Males reach full size at around eight years, while females take 1-2 years longer. Female bears start having cubs between 5 to 7 years old, but it’s around eight years old for those living in boreal forest areas like Ontario.

Black bears are protective of their territories and can be aggressive towards other animals, including humans.

8. Brown Bear

The brown Bear (Ursus arctos), or as you may know it, the grizzly Bear, is found in different parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia.

Brown Bears, too, are the least of concern. In fact, in some places, their populations are doing great. 

However, in southern Alaska, the plan of opening an open-pit gold and copper mine can soon create problems for this species as well.

The size and coloration of brown bears can vary depending on their location and the availability of food. For example, Alaskan/Coastal brown bears are known to be larger and have a more pronounced hump on their back than inland grizzly bears.

Brown bears are known for their fur, which can range from dark brown to almost blonde. This fur helps them blend into their environment and stay warm during the winter months. 

They’re omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Their diet includes berries, roots, insects, fish, and small mammals, among other things.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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