Some of the most common characteristics of a bear include a large body, stocky legs, long snout, shaggy hair, a short tail, and five nonretractile claws. Bears are the largest terrestrial members of the order Carnivora, with the biggest species being the polar bear and the Kodiak brown bear. The largest bear can reach a weight of over 750 kg (1,700 lb) and they use their incredible sense of smell to hunt and communicate. Bears are thought to have one of the best senses of smell in the mammal world.
There are currently eight species of bear living on Earth. They include the American black bear, brown bear, Asian black bear, giant panda, polar bear, sloth bear, spectacled bear, and the sun bear. The koala is not a bear, but instead a marsupial. Interestingly, the closest living relative of the bear are pinnipeds (semi-aquatic marine mammals) such as the walrus, seals, sea lions, and fur seals. Bears are also related to canids and musteloids. The evolutionary link between pinnipeds and land mammals was supported by the 2009 discovery of the otter-like Puijila darwini in Nunavut, Canada.
10. The Speed of a Bear
Bears are plantigrade animals and they distribute their weight toward the back of their feet when walking. Plantigrade is the most primitive form of locomotion in land carnivores and most animals are digitigrade (walking on the toes with the heel and wrist permanently raised) or unguligrade (walking on the nails of the toes). Because bears are plantigrade, they move in a lumbering-style motion.
Bears are extremely fast and brown bears can reach the speed of 30 mph (48 km/h). The top speed for a bear is around 40 mph. Bears are opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of easy prey. In this video, a bear can be seen entering the grazing area of a group of livestock and running down an animal. The true speed and power of the bear is on display.
9. Mom Saves Cubs
For the most part, bears are solitary animals and asocial carnivores. They rarely travel in groups, except for when courting, moving with cubs, or visiting a food source. When bears mate, the exchange is quick and the male moves on. The most lasting relationship in the bear family is between the mother and its cubs. The mother will protect its children at all cost and teach them how to survive in the wild.
After watching over the cubs for three years, the mother will drive them off. In most cases, a mother is successful in defending her cubs against male bears. She will act furiously and attack without cause. For this reason, many brown bear attacks on people occur when a mother is with her cubs.
A mother bear will usually avoid bringing her cubs into the vicinity of male bears. However, when a salmon run is happening, the mom is often forced to participate. In this video, a mom brown bear can be seen guiding her cubs into Brooks Falls in Alaska when two cubs fall over a waterfall. In response, the mom jumps to their safety.
8. The Polar Bear
It has been estimated that approximately 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears live in the wild. They can be found in the Arctic Circle and as far south as Newfoundland Island. Currently, eight of the nineteen polar bear subpopulations are in decline and it is a vulnerable species. In comparison to other bear species, the polar bear has benefited from the fact that humans haven’t settled in their natural environment.
The polar bear is often regarded as a marine mammal because it spends many months of the year at sea. In some cases, polar bears have been spotted 300 km (200 mi) from land. Polar bears often find food by following ice flows and tracking the migration of seals. For this reason, global warming has made it more difficult for the bears to find food. Unlike most bear species, the polar bear is not territorial. It will attack with stealth and usually eat the victim.
In January of 2013, a Scottish wildlife filmmaker named Gordon Buchanan presented a documentary on the BBC titled “The Polar Bear Family & Me.” The show covered the life of a mother polar bear and her cubs. In one scene, Buchanan used an impenetrable box to film the bear from an extremely close position. In the footage, the giant polar bear can be seen approaching the filmmaker and attempting to bite at the box. The video remains one of the best ever captured of a polar bear. The producer of the show has since come under attack for “disturbing” the bear and may face a fine.
7. Grizzly vs. Caribou
The grizzly bear is any North American subspecies of brown bear. For this reason, they have been named the North American brown bear. The diet of the grizzly bear is largely herbivorous (except for the Kodiac) and they enjoy whitebark pine nuts, tubers, grasses, rodents, berries, salmon, moths, and scavenged carcasses. The biggest grizzlies in the world live in Alaska and Canada.
In addition to plants, grizzly bears love to eat moose and elk calves. In Denali National Park and Yellowstone, grizzly bears may kill as much as 51% of the calves born each year. The bears prefer to attack sick, old, and small animals. However, when they are presented with an opportunity to kill a large elk, a bear won’t back down. In this video, a grizzly bear comes face to face with a huge caribou.
6. Kamchatka Bear Goes Fishing
(EDIT: The video originally used is no longer available. Enjoy this Grizzly Bear fishing video.)
The Kamchatka (Far Eastern brown bear) is a subspecies of brown bear that is native to the Anadyrsky District, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and surrounding areas. It is closely related to the Kodiak bear and approximately 10,000-14,000 Kamchatka bears live on the peninsula. The Kamchatka Peninsula is roughly the length of California, officially 1,250-kilometers (780 mi), and holds the highest density of brown bears on Earth.
The Kamchatka brown bear is the largest bear species in Eurasia. They have an average weight of 650 kg (1433 lbs), but rarely attack humans. Some of the Kamchatka bears favorite foods include berries, nuts, vegetation, and fish. They participate in salmon runs and take advantage of the lush environment of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The bears eat many types of fish, including Pink, Sockeye, Coho, Chum, King, Cherry, as well as char. Sadly, the Kamchatka brown bear is a prized trophy for Russian hunters.
In 2009, a six part series named Wild Russia examined the wilderness of Russia. One of the episodes was filmed on the Kamchatka Peninsula and includes many videos of bears. In one clip, a bear is filmed fishing for salmon. The footage was captured with a high speed camera and includes some great shots. A Kamchatka brown bear can catch around 90 pounds of fish each day.
Another section of the documentary features the legendary Valley of Geysers. During the filming of Wild Russia, a massive mudflow inundated two thirds of the valley. It was a said to be: “a tragedy for humankind because we lost one of the great natural wonders of the world.” Click here to preview a larger clip of the bears on Kamchatka.
5. Pavel and Tima
Bears are diurnal animals and usually active during the day. The most nocturnal species of bear is the sloth bear of Asia. During the winter months, many bear species hibernate. However, the hibernation of a bear is different from many animals because they experience only a small decrease in body temperature and don’t eat or defecate during the sleep. During hibernation, the bear’s heart rate slows from around 55 beats per minute to 9.
Bears hold human-like characteristics. They can stand upright and walk on two legs. When walking, bears keep their eyes facing forward and display facial features that can be recognized by humans. People and bears can interact with body language and in some cases build a lasting relationship.
Bears are one of the most intelligence mammals on Earth and have been taught to perform in the circus, often times dancing, doing tricks, and even riding bikes. In the last 25 years, many organizations have started to remove bears from their shows because of animal rights abuse.
Pavel Vyakin is a Russian animal trainer from Samara that has been working with a bear named Tima. Tima is a brown bear that has been featured in circuses, football games, advertisements, and movies. In 2013, Vyakin released a video of Tima performing some tricks. The bear can be seen doing gymnastics, clapping, playing the trumpet, sitting on a small chair, using a hula hoop, and even imitating a Russian gesture for “screw you.”
Under a different set of circumstances, the Shanghai Wild Animal Park in China continues to use bears for absurd entertainment. In this footage, a bear at the Shanghai Park is forced to race a bike against a group of monkeys. During the race, one of the monkeys falls off the bike and the bear instinctively attacks it. Park officials in Shanghai reported that the monkey wasn’t harmed due to an anti-biting muzzle on the bear, but some have questioned this.
4. Black Bear Visits Hunter
The American black bear is the world’s most common bear species. It has been estimated that the global population of the bears are twice that of all other bear species combined. The American black bear, along with the brown bear, are the only species not globally threatened. The black bear is often found in areas with thick vegetation and large quantities of editable plants. They are excellent tree climbers and like to eat grasses, roots, berries, insects, fish, and more rarely mammals and carrion (dead or decaying flesh). It is thought that around 85% of the black bear’s diet consists of vegetation.
The American black bear is highly coordinated and has the ability to open jars, turn handles, and walk on its hind legs. They are extremely strong and smart. The black bear rivals the intelligence of chimpanzees and can distinguish different shapes and colors. The average lifespan of an American black bear in the wild is 18 years. The record age is 31 years in the wild and 44 years in captivity.
Black bears are curious animals and have been known to enter campsites and neighborhoods in search of food and garbage. They typically avoid contact with humans and don’t attack unless threatened. In this video, a hunter is stationed in a tree when a bear decides to climb the tree and say hi. The bear comes face to face with the man and then quickly retreats down the tree. A similar event occurred in this funny viral video where a large black bear climbs a tree stand.
3. Binky Attacks
In May of 1975, an abandoned polar bear cub was recovered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Cape Beaufort, North Slope, Alaska. The bear was named Binky and was given to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. Binky was a popular attraction at the zoo and was loved by children. He weighed around 1,000 pounds (453kg) and was very smart.
In July of 1994, a 29-year-old Australian woman named Kathryn Warburton jumped over two safety rails in order to get a photograph of Binky. The bear didn’t respond nicely and bit Kathryn in the thigh. For a couple minutes, Binky attempted to drag Kathryn into his cage and growled while he mauled her leg. She suffered broken bones and torn ligaments in the attack. If Binky would have been able to puncture her femoral artery, Kathryn most likely would have been killed. The event was captured on tape and broadcast around the world.
Six weeks after the incident with Kathryn, Binky attacked a group of local teenagers after they approached his cage in hopes of swimming in the pool. The second attack made the polar bear a local celebrity in Alaska and he was featured on t-shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers, often with the slogan “send another tourist, this one got away.” In the summer of 1995, Binky and his cagemate Nuka died from sarcocystosis, a parasitic disease.
2. The Giant Panda
The giant panda is a bear species that is native to the mountains of south central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. The diet of the giant panda is 99% bamboo. They will occasionally eat meat in the form of birds, rodents, or carrion. The average panda will spend 14 hours a day eating and the remainder of the day sleeping. Giant pandas are one of the rarest animals in the world and there are approximately 1,600 left in the wild. Currently, there are over 300 giant pandas in zoos, with the majority found in China.
The giant panda is highly protected in China. In the past, the death penalty has been used for people who have killed a panda. However, in 1997, the penalty for panda poachers in China was officially changed from death to 20 years imprisonment. The giant panda typically lives around 20 years in the wild and 30 years in captivity. They don’t hibernate and have been known to attack humans on occasion.
In the 1970s, it was confirmed that the giant panda was a member of the bear family. They have a modified sesamoid bone (that acts like a thumb) and helps the bears hold bamboo while eating. The bears have been called a living fossil and provided scientists with important information on the evolution of species. In this video, we get a rare glimpse into the life of a wild giant panda.
1. Grizzly vs. Wolf
The grizzly bear and gray wolf are legendary rivals. They are keystone species that fight for food, resources, and survival. When gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone Park in 1995, people began to see the struggle between bear and wolf reemerge. When the two species interact, it is often the job of one wolf to lure the bear away while the others eat. The bear will respond by chasing the wolves. The events rarely end with the death of either animal.
The grizzly bear has thrived in Yellowstone since the wolf was reintroduced. Their presence has helped control the population of elk, which in turn has allowed the berry-producing shrubs and plants to return. Grizzly bears don’t have natural predators (except humans) and tigers. In some parts of the world, tigers have been known to hunt adult bear species, including sloth bears, Asiatic black bears, giant pandas, sun bears, and small brown bears.
In this video, a grizzly bear can be seen facing off against a pack of wolves. For a short time, the bear has the upper hand and feeds on the animal. However, the wolves take control and the bear retreats. In this additional footage, a mother grizzly bear can be seen protecting its cub from a pack of wolves in Yellowstone.