Introducing the 3 Main Species of Bears
Posted: Sep 29, 2015
Specialised bear tours designed to help enthusiasts spend time with the animals in the wild are becoming ever more popular. With a host of specialised itineraries from which to choose, you could find yourself in Canada, Alaska, Finland or even Spain.
Depending on where in the world you choose, you'll encounter different species of the bear. There are eight main species: the North American Black Bear, Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Andean Bear, Panda Bear, Sloth Bear and Sun Bear. Most organised bear tours, however, focus on the Black, Brown and Polar Bear. Here we offer a brief introduction.
North American Black Bear
The most common species in North America, it inhabits the area that stretches from Florida to Canada and Alaska. It is primarily omnivorous, eating mainly vegetation, which is quite surprising considering the size and weight of the adults. Reaching maturity at around eight years of age, an adult North American Black Bear often weighs around 280kg, and sometimes even more. Females produce cubs between the ages of five and seven. Many of these animals live up to 25 years of age, although they have been known to live much longer. Most North American Black Bears look black or brown but occasionally they can appear white, especially in northwest British Columbia.
There are many sub species of this bear, which is found in Alaska, western Canada and in some areas of Washington, Montana and Wyoming. It also inhabits areas of Russia and many parts of Europe and Asia. (On bears tours to Spain and Finland this is the species you will encounter.) Their colour varies quite substantially, ranging from almost black to blonde. Depending on the abundance of food, they can be very large or relatively small. The largest—the 'Big Browns'—are found in Alaska and Russia along the coastal areas, whereas smaller ones live in the interior of North America and the mountains of Europe.
Bear tours in the Arctic Circle offer an incredible opportunity to see these majestic creatures in their frozen habitat. Among the largest species, the adult Polar Bear can reach 800kg in weight. Adult females are much smaller but are still a formidable sight when seen in the wild. Preying on fish and seals, they are proficient hunters on land and in the water. Swimming at speeds of up to 10km/hr, they have adapted to their environment extremely effectively.
If you're considering heading off for a close encounter with any of the species of this amazing animal, doing some of your own research before you go into their characteristics and behaviours will enrich your experience even more.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer. If you’re looking for the best bear tours, Naturetrek specialises in expert-led natural history and wildlife tours worldwide. Naturetrek brings over 25 years of experience to polar expeditions and tours to other spectacular regions on Earth.
Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.