The large, powerful omnivore that always commands respect
Bears are large, omnivorous mammals of the family Ursidae. There are 8 bear species each of which has varied habitats, ranges, diets and characteristics. They are: black bear, brown bear, polar bear, Asiatic black bear, sloth bear, spectacled bear, sun bear and giant panda.
Bears are characterized by their plantigrade walk (on their heels, like humans), a large body, short legs, a stub of a tail, small round ears and forward facing eyes. The males are usually larger than the females, sometimes as much as 50% larger.
Sun bears are the smallest and polar bears are the largest. Polar bears are also the largest land living carnivores on earth. The spectacled bear is the only bear species in South America and one of the most emblematic mammals of the tropical Andes. Brown bears are the most widespread and are known as grizzly bears in North America. The giant panda, which is also WWF’s emblem, is a universal symbol of species conservation.
Bears' powerful limbs enable them to stand upright and even walk for short distances. Despite their bulky appearance, they can even run at fast speeds. They have acute senses of smell and hearing. Bears have always commanded respect and reverence and are the subject of myth in many cultures. There is evidence of bear worship in China in the past, and the Korean people also identify bears as their ancestors and symbolic animals.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
The polar bear, Asiatic black bear, spectacled bear, and sloth bear are listed as 'vulnerable' and the giant panda is listed as 'endangered' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.