What Are the Eight Species of Bears?

By Bree Underwood
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The eight species of bears on the planet are found in a variety of habitats. All bears share some characteristics, such as being larger animals and having the ability to walk on their heels. They are all omnivores as well, although some species such as panda bears prefer a plant-based diet, while others, such as polar bears, eat mainly meat. Each bear species also possesses unique qualities.

Asiatic Black Bear

Asiatic black bears are medium-sized bears that usually live in the forests of mountainous or hilly regions. They are found all over southern Asia, Taiwan, southeast Russia and the Japanese islands of Shikoku and Honshu. They eat invertebrates, small vertebrates, insects, carrion, bees’ nests and fruit. Occasionally, domestic livestock are the prey of Asiatic black bears.

Black Bear

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Black bears usually have black coats, but some are found with brown or reddish-brown coats, making their name somewhat misleading. In fact, the confusion has caused some people to believe they spotted a brown bear in the wild when it was actually a black bear. These bears occur in the U.S. in 32 states, throughout Canada (with the exception of Prince Edward Island) and in northern Mexico. They feed on a variety of vegetation, berries, nuts, bugs and sometimes moose calves and deer fawns.

Brown Bear

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Brown bears, also known as grizzly bears, are large bears and are the most widely distributed species of bear on the planet. Although brown bears would prefer a carnivorous diet, they mainly eat different kinds of vegetation like grasses, roots and bulbs. When they are able, they also feed on fish, small mammals, caribou, moose and elk calves.

Giant Panda Bear

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Giant pandas eat a variety of bamboo and are able to consume an impressive 84 pounds in a day. They will also eat a small amount of meat and other plants when necessary. These black-and-white bears are found in the mountainous forests of southwest China.

Polar Bear

Polar bears are the biggest carnivore on land, with adult males weighing 880 to 1,320 lbs. These massive animals are found all over the circumpolar Arctic. Living on a diet consisting mainly of ringed seal, polar bears have the largest meat-based diet of all the bears. In addition to ringed seal, polar bears will eat bearded seals and sometimes belugas, narwhals and young walruses. During summer they feed on berries, kelp and grass, too.

Sloth Bear

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Sloth bears are smaller bears with shaggy, black coats (sometimes they have brown, red or gray mixed in). The staple of their diet is termites, and they consume them with lips that are able to protrude. They are also missing their upper inner incisors, so they can suck large quantities of termites up at once. Sloth bears will eat honeycombs, insects, eggs, carrion, fruit and other kinds of vegetation. They occur in India and Sri Lanka and have been seen in Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Spectacled Bear

Spectacled bears are found in mountain forests of Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. They are normally brown or black, occasionally with a red tinge in their coat. They have a varied diet that includes mice, birds, rabbits, berries and grasses, but they prefer to eat the hearts of plants in the Bromeliaceae family.

Sun Bear

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Sun bears are the smallest of the bear species. They have black coats with yellowish chest patches and short muzzles that are light orange to grayish colored. These bears can be found in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia. Their diet consists of a large amount of fruit, particularly figs (if it’s in their habitat), but they also consume a large amount of termites, bee and beetle larvae, ants, honey and on rare occasions some palm shoots and some flowers.