89 Interesting Facts About Bears

Last updated on May 5th, 2023

Bears, belonging to the family Ursidae, are majorly found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere. Despite their weight, they are very skilled at running, climbing, and swimming. With these interesting facts about bears, let us explore more about these mammals.

Essential Bear Facts

1. Range and Diversity

Eight bear species are scattered across the globe: polar bears, giant pandas, sun bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears, brown bears, Asian black bears, and North American black bears.

2. Size and Weight

Sun bears are the smallest with most adults only reaching at 4 ft and 60 lbs. Polar bears are the largest with some becoming positively gigantic at 10 ft and 1,700 lbs.  

3. Life Expectancy

Out in the wild, bears can live for up to 25 years. In captivity, they can live twice as long with enough food and care. 

Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Wrangel.

4. Survival of the Fattest

Bears hibernate during winter to cope with food shortage. With a lower metabolism, they can last for several months without eating and drinking. They survive on body fat instead. Did you know that the average hibernator weighs only 70 grams? Hibernation is a means of energy conservation, and different species hibernate due to various reasons including food shortage and temperature fluctuations. 

5. Bear Birth

In the middle of hibernation, females will rise to push out as many as four cubs. The tiny hairless newborns are completely dependent on their mothers for milk and warmth.

6. Bear Diet

Bear diets vary based on species and environment. For example, giant pandas love bamboo, polar bears hunt seals, American black bears feed on berries, sloth bears eat termites, and brown bears catch salmon.

bear on a tree. Interesting facts about bears
Photo © Benjamin Rowland

7. Walking Upright

Bears are more comfortable moving on all fours, but they can walk using only their hind legs for short distances. From afar, you may think they were ordinary humans. 

8. Signs of Intelligence

Bears have larger brains than most land mammals. They are intelligent enough to cover their tracks, hide from hunters, and camouflage their scent. They can even remember places where they got food for up to 10 years. However, did you know that the largest brains are those of sperm whales, weighing about 8 kg? A human brain is around 1.3 to 1.5 kg. Brain size tends to vary according to body size. 

9. Colorful World

Studies show that bears see the world in color and their eyes reflect light in the dark. These help them find good food while they roam at night. Not all mammals can see colors. Bears are among the few that have color vision, which helps them find food faster and spot the difference between similar items. Bear have a reflective layer at the back of their eyes that improves night vision. This also produces the bright eyeshine when you flash a light on them at night. You can observe the same thing with cats, dogs, and other animals.

Bear Sleeping on a Log. Interesting facts about bears.
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Trudywsimmons

10. Group Name

A group of bears is referred to as a “sloth” of bears. It comes from the Middle English word for “slow”. That’s quite inaccurate since bears can run as fast as 40 mph.

11. Hybrid Bears

Climate change is making bears wander into each other’s territories more often. This has led to more hybrids such as the offspring of brown bears and polar bears. 

12. Bear Constellations

Two constellations are named after bears: Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear). Both found in the northern sky, explorers use them to navigate in the dark. 

Eurasian brown bear standing on hind legs, bear facts
Photo © Dalia Kvedaraite

13. Bear Temperament

Only the polar bear is a true carnivore while others are omnivores that often prefer plant-based food. Many people are afraid of bear attacks but these creatures are more likely to run away during encounters. 

14. Don’t Feed the Bears

Bears often return to food sources. Don’t feed them if you don’t want them coming around often. Don’t leave pet food and garbage in the open for too long either. 

15. Camping with Bears

Bears can smell food from miles away. Airtight containers such as bear canisters can hide the scent. Cooking and washing should be far from the tent so wandering bears won’t disturb your sleep.

Grizzly Bear Fishing, facts about bears
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Andreanita

16. Bear Spray

Bear spray should only be used directly on the eyes or nose of an attacking bear. It should not be sprayed on the ground, tent, or on random objects because the smell can attract bears.

17. Playing Dead

Playing dead is only effective when trying to escape a grizzly defending her cubs, not when a predatory bear is hunting you down as its prey (throwing rocks and sticks is more appropriate).

18. Make Some Noise

When moving around areas with bears, it is a good idea to make some noise by singing or talking loudly. This gives them time to avoid you, thus preventing awkward encounters.

Black Bear Paw With sharp Claws
Photo © Berkay

19. Bears Like It Natural

Natural food is their preference. They will eat human food if available, but they go back to their usual fare in the wild if they can get these.

20. Bears Show Intention

Bears are predictable and intelligent creatures. They typically vocalize and use body language to show their intentions. By learning their behaviors, people can feel safer and more confident around them.

21. Common Traits

Bears are known for having a big body, short tail, broad head, thick legs, small eyes, and round ears. Their long, shaggy fur comes in different colors including black, brown, red, cream, and white.

22. Koalas Aren’t Bears

Koalas are often mistaken for bears, but they are actually marsupials that carry their babies in a pouch. Koalas are more closely related to wombats and kangaroos.

23. The First Bear

The “dawn bear” is considered as the first bear ever to walk the Earth, dating as far back as 10 million years ago.

24. Lone Wanderers

Bears like to roam on their own. They usually spend the first three years of their lives with their mother. As soon as they can, they move away, find their own territory, and live alone.

A Grizzly Bear in a Zoo Cage
A Grizzly Bear in a Zoo Cage. Photo © Derrick Neill

25. Survival Skills

Bear cubs learn survival skills from their mother, who may take them around while gathering food. They see which plants are good to eat, where to find them, and which foods are available in each season.

26. Largest Bear Ever

Scientists discovered an ancient bear that weighed between 2,000 and 3,500 pounds. That is several times larger than polar bears!

27. Small Ears

Bear ears are small compared to their body size and are often covered in fur. This helps prevent them from getting cold. The downside is that bears don’t have good hearing.

28. Smell Over Sight

Bears rely on their keen sense of smell more than their eyesight. They use it to follow the scent of potential mates and their prey.

29. Bear Terms

Male bears are called “boars”, while females are called “sows”. Their babies are “cubs”. If you see a group of bears, then you can refer to them as a “sloth”.

Polar Bear facts

Polar bear with her twin cubs. Polar bear facts
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Outdoorsman

30. What’s in a Name?

An 18th century explorer coined the term “polar bear”. Scientists also use the Latin “Ursus maritimus” (sea bear) and the Greek “Thalarctos” (bear of the Northern Sea).

31. Two Layers of Fur

Polar bears developed two layers of fur to survive the Arctic climate. The inner layer’s plush hair traps body heat. The outer layer adds insulation and repels cold water.

32. Polar Bears are Not White

Their fur is actually transparent up-close. The hair shafts have a clear hollow core that reflects visible light. The reflections make them seem white and help them blend in with the snowy environment.

33. Fat for Warmth

Polar bears swim in frigid waters to hunt and travel. Since wet fur is a poor insulator, they rely on body fat for warmth instead. This layer can be up to 11.4 cm thick.

34. Specialized Paws

With 30 cm paws, they can walk on thin ice without falling. They can also swim fast by using these as paddles. The two-inch claws help catch prey and add traction on ice.  

Black Bear facts

Facts about bears: Black Bear growling. black bear facts
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © James Vallee

35. Range and Population

Around 750,000 black bears are found in North America. They live in forests from the northern regions of Alaska and Canada, to the southern regions of Florida and Mexico.  

36. Color Coat

Despite their name, black bears are not always black. Many of them have brown or blonde fur. A few have white fur, such as the Kermodes of coastal British Columbia. 

37. Long Distance Swimmer

Although they mostly stay on land, black bears can swim in fresh water for at least a mile and a half. Some are known to swim over nine miles. 

38. Winter Dens

Black bears create winter dens at the base of hollow trees, under the snow, or inside rock crevices. In warmer regions, they may stay high up on trees. They scratch the bark off for soft bedding material.

39. Life Cycle

Cubs grow quickly with most weighing 80 lbs by their first year. They will stick with their mothers for around 18 months or until she is ready to mate again. Adult bears lead solitary lives. 

Brown Bear facts

Brown bear facts
Photo © Puppie2008 

40. Belly Holes

Alaskan brown bears lay down to rest after feeding. To stay comfortable despite their large bellies, they make it a point to dig belly holes. Bigger bellies get deeper holes!

41. Food Intake

Brown bears can eat up to 90 lbs of food each day from summer to fall, enabling them to gain 6 lbs of fat daily. This is in preparation for winter hibernation. 

42. Brown Bear Distinction

Brown bears range in color from black to blonde. What sets them apart from black bears is their prominent shoulder hump, dish-shaped face, and longer claws.

43. Naming Origin

The scientific name for brown bears is Ursus arctos. This is actually redundant since both words mean “bear”. “Ursus” is Latin while “arctos” is the Greek form.   

44. Bear Cubs

Mating happens throughout the fall. Embryos only develop after females enter their winter den. After eight weeks, cubs are born tiny and lightweight at under half a pound. 

Spectacled Bear facts

Spectacled bear, facts about bears
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Matthew Hart

45. Southern Bears

Nearly all bear species live in the Northern Hemisphere. The only exception is the spectacled bear. This can be found across the Andes Mountains in South America, ranging from Venezuela to Argentina

46. Eye Rings

Their name comes from the distinctive light-colored rings around their eyes that look like big eyeglasses. Each one has a facial marking that is unique like a human fingerprint. 

47. Shy Introverts

Spectacled bears are extremely shy. They would rather stay in isolated cloud forests and climb 14,000 feet high to avoid contact, only coming down to search for food. 

48. Night Bears

They are active at night, harvesting fruits, cacti, berries, and honey. They may climb trees and wait for fruits to ripen for days. Only 5% of their diet is meat including birds, rodents, and insects. 

49. Pop Culture Fame

The most well-known spectacled bear is Paddington, the creation of children’s author Michael Bond. The first book was published in 1958. It has evolved into TV shows and feature films.

Sloth Bear facts

Sloth bear, Melursus ursinus, Ranthambore National Park, India
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Ondřej Prosický

50. Natural Air Filter

Humans wear face masks to prevent the inhalation of unwanted particles. Sloth bears deal with this by closing the nostrils on their own. This is useful in blocking dust while raiding termite nests.

51. Mothers and Cubs

Most bear species let their cubs roam around on their own. In contrast, sloth bears regularly carry their young cubs on their backs to protect these from predators.

52. Bear Teeth

The gap in their front teeth provides a clear path when sucking ants and termites. Sloth bears can easily grind fruits and insects with small molars. Only their canines are large for defense.

53. Bear Fur

Sloth bears live in warm regions around South Asia like India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Their shaggy coats protect from insect bites and help cubs hold onto their mothers.

54. Bear’s Bread

To feed larger cubs, mothers regurgitate a sticky mixture of partially digested honeycomb, wood apples, and jack fruit. This hardens into a bread-like mass with a circular shape and dark yellow color. 

Giant Panda facts

Two lovely pandas eating bamboo, facts about bears
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Hupeng

55. Panda Parleys

Despite being solitary animals, they can interact through sounds when surrounded by other pandas. They could bark, chirp, chomp, bleat, and honk to communicate. They are the most vocal of all bears. 

56. Carnivore Digestive System

Pandas are nonstop eaters. Their bodies have trouble digesting cellulose, so they compensate with high volume consumption. They spend 12-14 hrs a day devouring up to 40 kg of bamboo.

57. Giant Panda Art

These bears are highly revered in Chinese culture. Ancient art from the region dating back thousands of years ago include depictions of giant pandas.

58. Panda Handstands

Pandas leave scents on trees and rocks to notify others about their presence. The scent gland is under their short tail. Males will often do a handstand so that their rear end can rub higher areas.

59. Pseudo Thumb

Pandas hold bamboo securely while eating. They have six digits on each paw: five fingers and one opposable pseudo-thumb. It is really just an enlarged wrist bone but it gets the job done. 

Sun Bear facts

Sun Bear, bear fact file
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Wrangel

60. Honey Bear

All bears love honey but none more than the sun bears. Their long snouts and tongues can extend up to 25 cm to extract honey and larvae from inside beehives. 

61. Distribution and Habitat

These small bears live in tropical rainforests across Southeast Asia including Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. They love places that are hot and humid.  

62. Fur Coat

Their dense black fur is short enough to prevent overheating. It protects them from insect bites and bee stings while feeding. The sleek fur ensures that dirt, mud, and rain can slide right off. 

63. Elevated Beds

Sun bears spend most of their time high up on tree branches. They keep themselves comfortable by building beds using leaves and twigs — quite a luxurious accommodation in a forest.

64. Rising Sun

The gold-colored patch on their chest is said to resemble the rising sun, and local legends have cemented this myth. The scientific name Helarctos Malayanus means “sun bear of Malaya” in Greek.

Asian Black Bear facts

Asiatic black bear, bear facts
Interesting facts about bears. Photo © Mazikab

65. Unique Traits

Asian black bears are easily identified through the patch of white crescent on their chest, a light brown muzzle, and long bell-shaped ears that stick out sideways. 

66. Strong Climbers

The black bears of Asia have strong upper bodies that are great for climbing trees. In fact, they can continue to climb even if they have broken hind legs. 

67. Best in Bipedal 

Other bear species can only walk on two legs for short distances before reverting to all fours. Asian black bears can maintain it for more than a quarter of a mile. 

68. Distribution and Habitat

The bears can be found in forests around the foothills of the Himalayas, China, and mainland Southeast Asia. Some are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Russian Far East.

69. Moon Bear

One of its scientific names is “Selenarctos Thibetanus” which translates to “moon bear of Tibet”. This is in reference to the prominent white crescent on their chest. 

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