101 Facts – Bears! | Always Learning!

101 Facts… Bears!

Over 101 cool facts about these beautiful, cuddly but deadly animals.
It contains facts, stunning photos and awesome videos that show us much more about these highly intelligent and often endangered creatures.

If you haven’t already bought it visit Amazon to buy it today!

The bears included in the book are listed below. Follow the links for the animal’s video playlist:

For video footage…

American Black Bears
Asian Black Bears
Brown Bears
Giant Pandas
Polar Bears
Short Faced Bears (extinct)
Sloth Bears
Spectacled Bears
Sun Bears

A Bear History
Anatomy and Senses
Bear Cubs
American Black Bear
Asian Black Bear
Brown Bear
Giant Panda
Polar Bear
Sloth Bears
Spectacled Bear
Sun Bear
Bears and Human Myths
Bear Attacks on Humans
Final Facts
Photo Credits

Giant panda in Ocean Park, Hongkong

Bears belong to the family Ursidae (say: er-sih-day). Only eight species of bears remain alive today.

Bear’s closest living relatives are dogs, seals and mustelids. Mustelids are animals such as weasels, badgers, otters and skunks.

Like dogs, seals and weasels, bears evolved from the miacids – small, insect-eating animals with long tails and long bodies. They lived 60 to 30 million years ago, during the time of the dinosaurs.

Red pandas were once believed to be part of the bear family but they have been reclassified as members of their own family (Ailuridae). They are now viewed as more closely related to the mustelid or weasel family than the bear family.

Red panda at the Cincinnati Zoo

The first bears were small and looked more like raccoons. The earliest known had skulls that were only 2.75 inches (7 centimeters) long. They first appeared 38 to 18 million years ago.

The genus Ursavus is considered the ancestor of all living bears. It existed in North America, Europe and Asia roughly 28 to as recent as 5 million years ago.

The ‘dawn bear’, is believed to be the earliest bear species, it was only about the size of a fox terrier.

About 19 million years ago, the Protursus evolved. This is the ancestor of all pandas, although only one – the giant panda – remains.

The sloth bear is believed to have appeared 5.3 million years ago. The fact that it is different from other bears in terms of appearance and diet is the result of an adaptation to a radiation event, although scientists are unclear what actually happened.

Sloth bear

The Etruscan bear (Ursus etruscus) lived from 5 million to roughly 11,000 years ago. It lived in Europe, Asia and North Africa and weighed about 220 to 440 pounds (100 to 200 kilograms).

The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) also lived at the same time. It weighed about 880 1100 pounds (400 to 500 kilograms), closer to the weight of today’s bears, and lived mostly in caves, even when not hibernating.

Reconstruction of European cave bear

Another extinct bear species is the dwarf panda which lived up to 2 million years ago. It was only about 3 feet (1 meter) long but is believed to be the direct ancestor of the giant panda.

The giant short-faced bear existed up until 11,000 years ago. It was the largest bear to have ever existed, standing 6.5 feet (2 meters) tall at the shoulder on all fours. It is also believed to be the largest carnivorous mammal to have ever lived.

Giant short-faced bear reconstruction

To see video clips about the short-faced bear visit http://ultimastatus.com/short-faced-bear/
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Even today, bears hold the record for being the largest carnivorous land mammals. Their size ranges from 4 feet (1 meter) to 10 feet (3 meters) while their weight ranges from 187 to as much as 1650 pounds (85 to 750 kilograms).

Bears have excellent balance. They can stand on their hind feet, which they often do to see, hear and smell better. They can also sit up straight.

Brown bear at Polar Zoo, Bardu, Norway

Bears were once thought to have poor vision. However, it has been proven that bears can see just as well as humans, and like us, they can see in color.

Like dogs and cats, the eyes of bears are coated with a special layer called the tarpetum lucidum. This layer reflects light back, causing the bears’ eyes to glow in the dark, and also allowing them to see well in the dark.

In spite of their heavy build, many bears are good at climbing trees and at swimming. Bears swim at an average of 4 to 6 miles (6 to 10 kilometers) per hour.

Sloth bear in tree at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

A bear’s ears are uniquely structured. In other carnivores, the outer bone of the eardrum is larger than the inner bone; in bears, it is the opposite. How this affects a bear’s hearing, though, remains unknown.

A bear’s primary sense is smell, which many scientists consider to be the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom, even better than dogs. In fact, one study showed that a bear’s sense of smell is seven times better than a bloodhound’s!

Like dogs and cats, bears have an additional smelling organ called the Jacobson’s organ, or the vomeronasal organ (say “voh-meh-roh-NAY-suhl”). This organ is located in the roof of the mouth, which is why bears sometimes open their mouths when smelling.

Unlike some other carnivores such as cats, otters or seals, bears have functional sweet receptors on their tongues so they can taste sweets.

Bears have relatively short legs and walk in a plantigrade fashion. This means that they walk with their feet flat and firmly planted on the ground, instead of on their toes, like dogs and cats.

Polar bear showing of its flat-footed walking style at Cape Churchill, Canada

Bears have a total of 40 to 42 teeth. Except for polar bears, bears have mostly flat teeth that are suited for eating plants, leading some scientists to believe that they may be evolving towards an herbivorous diet.

In spite of being classified as carnivores, about 75% to 85% of a bear’s diet is made up of plants. In spring, they eat new grasses and buds. In summer, they eat mostly fruits and in the fall, they eat mostly ultimastatus and nuts, even stealing nuts from squirrels!

American black bear feasting on ultimastatus at Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies

Different bears specialize in different foods, depending on what their mothers taught them. So not all bears are fish eaters and not all bears will attack other large mammals for food.

Bears do eat honey, although they do not like it as much as Winnie the Pooh does. In fact, they prefer to eat the baby bees when they do stumble upon a beehive.

Apart from bees, bears also eat ants, wasps and grubs, which provide them with a lot of protein. Their strong paws and long claws are useful in taking apart logs to eat grubs and to dig up ant colonies. They can even break open hornets’ nests, as the stings don’t get through their thick fur and skin.

Brown Bear and its huge, strong claws (Moscow Zoo)

Another favorite food of bears is fish, especially salmon, trout and catfish. They wait on the river bank and swipe out the fish with their claws or sit near the rapids where the fish jump out, catching them in mid-air with their teeth or claws!

Alaskan brown bear

Bears are not really hunters but they can prey on young deer, mule, elk and moose when available. The polar bear is an exception; it is an active predator that relies on other animals for food.

Bears also eat bird eggs since they can easily reach many bird nests. They have even been known to raid alligator nests to eat their eggs, sometimes getting into fights with female alligators.

Contrary to popular belief, bears are not nocturnal. In fact, most of them are active during the day.

Of all carnivores, bears are believed to be the most solitary. Only mother bears and their cubs travel together and adult bears only meet when breeding or feeding on salmon, parting ways immediately afterward.

Kodiak brown bear cow sitting up with young cubs

Bears mark their territories by rubbing their backs on trees, clawing at tree bark or stomping their feet near a tree. In this way, they can warn other bears to stay away and also find mates during breeding season.

Bears can produce a variety of sounds. They can growl and roar when they are angry or threatening others, huff to warn others of danger and bark when they are alarmed or excited. They also have a contented sound much like a cat’s purr, and a distress call like a wail.

Ussuri brown bear in the Beijing Zoo

When a bear is afraid, it blows loudly and snaps its teeth. It may also slap the ground or a nearby bush. If ignored, the bear might well choose to attack.

Bears tend to walk in their own tracks. This means that an area frequented by bears may have only one set of tracks, but the paw prints will appear sunken as if they have been beaten into the soil.

Not all bears hibernate or sleep during winter but many, especially those who live in northern areas, do. They do this not because of the cold but because there is a lack of food.

Bears hibernate for roughly 100 days, though they can stay in their dens for up to 7 months.

Before hibernation, bears go through a period of excessive eating and drinking known as hyperphagia (say “high-per-FAY-gee-uh”). They do this in order to store a 100-pound (45-kilogram) layer of fat, which in turn, allows them to survive while they are asleep.

During hibernation, a bear’s temperature drops only by 7 or 8 degrees Fahrenheit (3 or 4 degrees Celsius). Its heartbeat, however, drops significantly, from about 40 beats per minute to just 8 to 10 beats.

Bear den at Sheep Ranch Camp

A bear does not wake up at all during the hibernation period. This means that it does not eat or drink, while still burning about 4,000 calories a day, which is why it needs to eat so much food beforehand. By the time it wakes up, a bear will have lost 25% to 40% of its body weight!

Bears also do not urinate or defecate during hibernation. Their bodies reabsorb the waste products, converting them into protein.

Hibernation is also a time for growth. While hibernating, the skin on a bear’s paws peels off to make room for new tissue.

After waking up, bears go through a period called walking hibernation, which lasts about 2 to 3 weeks. During this time, bears will walk as if they are drunk and will eat and drink only small amounts. Normal activity resumes from the rest of spring until fall, when they begin to eat and drink excessively again in preparation for winter.

Female bears give birth during hibernation, though not every year. Most bears give birth every other year, and only if they have stored up enough fat. If not, they will not give birth until the following year.

Bears have a gestation period of 180 to 250 days. One to four cubs can be born per litter, though there are commonly two.

Newborn American black bear cubs

Baby bears are called cubs and weigh 4 to 10 pounds (2 to 5 kilograms) at birth. They are born blind, without any teeth and without fur, which is why they have to snuggle into their mother’s fur to keep warm.

Bear cubs open their eyes after 6 to 8 weeks. They have blue eyes at first, which gradually turn brown.

Asian black bear aged 44 days

Bear cubs emerge from the den at the same time as their mother and by this time, they already have a thick coat of fur. They can be very curious and playful, rolling around in the grass and wrestling with their mother and each other.

Mother bears with cubs are usually not fierce. Rather, when they sense danger, they flee with their cubs instead of fighting, putting them up in a tree. Sometimes, she leaves them there to lead hunters away. When the danger has cleared, she comes back and tells her cubs to come down.

Asian black bear cub up a tree

Bear cubs learn to eat plants and small animals at around 5 months old but nurse up to a year or more. They stay with their mothers for two to four years, or until she has her next cub.

Panda cub from Wolong, Sichuan, China

The American black bear is the most common bear species, with its population in US and Canada numbering close to a million. It also has a small population in Mexico.

Not all American black bears are black. Though 50% to 70% of them are, they also come in dark brown, light brown, chocolate brown, white and blond.

American black bear at Yellowstone National Park

American black bears are very skillful. They can open screw-top jars and door latches. They have even been seen using rocks to scrub themselves.

They are also very strong. Adult bears can lift whole tree logs with ease while bear cubs can flip over rocks weighing up to 325 pounds (147 kilograms) with a single arm.

American black bear

The Kermode bear, a subspecies of the American black bear, is also known as the spirit bear, since approximately 10% of them have white or cream-colored coats, and therefore look like spirits. They are considered sacred by the native peoples of North America.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/american-black-bears/

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The Asian black bear is also called the white-chested bear because of the patch of white on its chest. It can be found in Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, India and across the Himalayas.

Asiatic black bear at Wroclaw zoo

Of all the bear species, Asian black bears are the most arboreal, which means they spend more time in trees than other bears. This is because they are well-adapted to climbing trees, with powerful upper bodies and relatively short hind legs.

Asian black bears are also more likely to stand on their hind feet than other bear species. In fact, they can walk upright, just like humans, for over a quarter mile!

Most Asian black bears do not hibernate, instead moving to warmer areas. Most pregnant females, however, do hibernate, entering their dens in November and emerging in March or April with their cubs.

Ussuri black bear in Kaliningrad Zoo

Tigers are the main enemy of Asian black bears, preying on bears less than five years old. Bears try to avoid tigers as much as possible but they can still end up getting attacked, resulting in fierce fights in which both can end up with life-threatening wounds.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/asian-black-bears/

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The brown bear is the most widely distributed bear species. It has at least 16 subspecies which can be found in many parts of Europe, Asia and North America.

Brown bears are distinguished from other bear species by their noticeable shoulder humps as well as their long, curved claws. Although they are called brown bears and most often appear dark brown, they can also come in black and cream.

The Kodiak bear is the largest subspecies of brown bear and one of the largest members of the bear family. Males weigh 1058 to 1500 pounds (480 to 680 kilograms) and females weigh 500 to 700 pounds (225 to 315 kilograms).

Kodiak bear, Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, Alaska

The grizzly bear is also a subspecies of the brown bear. The word ‘grizzly’ refers to its greyish hair, though it is also called the ‘silvertip’ because its fur gives off a silvery glow.

Grizzly bear in Denali National Park

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/brown-bears/

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The giant panda is a bear found only in China. It is easily distinguished from other bears because of its black and white coloration.

Panda Gao Gao in San Diego Zoo, USA

99% of a giant panda’s diet is made up of bamboo. The average giant panda eats as much as 30 pounds (14 kilograms) of bamboo shoots a day.

The giant panda has adapted well to its bamboo diet. It has a modified thumb that helps it to hold bamboo. It also has powerful jaws that are made for eating bamboo.

Pandas eating bamboo, Washington Zoo

A giant panda’s gestation period ranges from 95 to as many as 160 days. Usually, only one cub is born and if there are twins, the mother chooses to raise the stronger of the cubs, leaving the other to die, since she can only produce enough milk for one cub.

Although an adult giant panda can weigh up to 350 pounds (160 kilograms), a newborn panda weighs only 3 to 4 ounces (85 to 113 grams) and is about the length of a stick of butter. It is born pink but turns black and white after a month.

Baby pandas in Chengdu China

All of the pandas in the world are owned by China. In the 1970s, pandas were given by China as gifts to other countries to establish diplomatic relations. Then, in the 1980s, China began to loan them to other countries for a payment of $10,000,000.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/giant-panda/

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Together with the Kodiak bear, the polar bear is the largest member of the bear family, weighing up to 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms). It can only be found in the Arctic Circle.

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Barter Island, Alaska

In spite of its size, the polar bear has a short tail, the shortest tail, in fact, among all living bears. It only grows to 5 inches (13 centimeters) in length.

A polar bear’s feet are very large, measuring 12 inches (30 centimeters) across. The paws are also covered in small, hard bumps which allow the polar bear to walk firmly on ice.

Polar bears keep themselves warm with a 4-inch (10-centimeter) layer of fat called blubber. They also have thick, black skin and two layers of fur.

Three Polar bears approach the submarine USS Honolulu while surfaced 280 miles from the North Pole

Polar bears are the best swimmers of all bears. They can swim at 6 miles (10 kilometers) per hour and cover distances of up to 90 miles (145 kilometers) with ease!

A polar bear swimming in the Arctic

Polar bears are the most carnivorous of bears. They eat mostly ringed seals and bearded seals, patiently waiting beside breathing holes to drag them out of the water or carefully stalking them on the ice. They have also been known to kill walruses, beluga whales, narwhals, reindeer, caribou, birds, crabs and hares.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/polar-bears/

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Sloth bears are found in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. They are known for their shaggy coats which are almost completely black, and for their thick, pale muzzles and pure white claws.

Sloth bears have the longest tail in the bear family, growing up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) long.

Sloth bear in Washington, D.C.

Like sloths, sloth bears are good at climbing trees. They can even hang upside down from trees.

Sloth bears do not hibernate but rest in caves during wet season. They are the most nocturnal of all bears, feeding at night and sleeping in nests made of tree branches during the day.

Sloth bear in Frankfurter Zoo

Sloth bears eat mostly termites and grubs, which they can detect by smell. They destroy termite mounds and then suck the insects through their muzzles, producing a loud sound.

Baloo, the bear character in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’, is believed to be a sloth bear.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/sloth-bears/

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The spectacled bear is the last remaining short-faced bear in the world. It is also the only bear native to South America, where it is the largest land carnivore.

Spectacled bears get their name from the cream-colored markings on their faces, making them look like they are wearing glasses. Not all spectacled bears have this marking, but those that do have unique markings through which they can be identified.

Spectacled bear at the Cincinnati Zoo

Spectacled bears spend plenty of time up in the trees. They climb trees when threatened and rest in platforms that they make out of tree branches.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/spectacled-bears/

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The sun bear can be found only in Southeast Asia. It is the smallest of all the bears, growing only as long as 59 inches (150 centimeters).

A female sun bear sitting in Basel Zoo

Sun bears have very long tongues – up to 9.8 inches (25 centimeters) long. They use these long tongues to extract insects and honey, which they like so much that they are sometimes called ‘honey bears’.

To see them in action visit ultimastatus.com/sun-bears/

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The bear is the national animal of Finland. The Finns once worshipped bears, considering them the spirits of their forefathers.

In Korea, there is a legend that tells of a heavenly prince, a tiger and a bear. The tiger and the bear wanted so much to become human that they prayed to the heavenly prince everyday until he finally decided to give them a chance. He said that if they could stay in a cave for a hundred days while feeding on only a bundle of mugwort and some garlic, he would make them human. The tiger grew hungry and left the cave but the bear passed the test. The bear was transformed into a beautiful woman and became the wife of the heavenly prince. Their child became Dan-Gun, the first human king of Korea.

American black bear in a very human pose

The Ainu people of Russia and Japan had an annual ceremony called iomante wherein they would sacrifice a brown bear. During winter, when the bears were asleep, they would go hunting for a newborn bear cub, which they would take and raise as one of their own children until it was two years old. Then, they would kill the bear, after which they drank its blood, ate its meat and worshipped its bones!

The Himalayan brown bear is believed to be the source of the legend of the Yeti or Abominable Snowman. The Himalayan brown bear is commonly sandy brown and regularly walks on its hind feet.

Between 1989 and 1994, sloth bears killed 48 people and injured 686 others in the province of Madhya Pradesh in India. They are feared in the area because of their unpredictable temper.

One particular sloth bear, named the Sloth Bear of Mysore, is believed to be responsible for the death of 12 people and the mauling of 24, many of whom lost one or both of their eyes. He was finally shot by a man named Kenneth Anderson, who had previously been attacked and hospitalized by the same bear.

Large sloth bear

On December 9 and 10, 1915, an Ussuri brown bear reportedly attacked the village of Sankebetsu in Hokkaido, Japan, killing seven people, including a pregnant woman and a baby. This incident is now referred to as the ‘Sankebetsu brown bear incident’ and is considered the worst bear attack in Japanese history.

From 1900 to 1980, 23 people were killed by American black bears. The worst incident occurred in May, 1978 in Algonquin, Canada, in which three teenagers were killed while fishing. Rangers and scientists however, maintain that American black bears rarely attack and when they do, attacks rarely lead to serious injury.

Asian black bears are believed to be more aggressive than the brown bears occupying the same range. While no attacks have been recorded in Russia and Taiwan, numerous attacks have been recorded in India, Nepal and Japan.

In 2008, a group of 30 Kamchatka brown bears attacked a mining compound in northern Kamchatka. Two guards were killed and the workers were unable to leave their homes for days.

Kamchatka brown bear

Various grizzly bear attacks have been recorded within Yellowstone National Park, although the numbers have declined over the decades. From the 1930s to the 1950s, there was one attack per year. In the 1960s, there were four attacks per year. In the 1970s, there was one attack every two years. Then, from 1980 to 2002, only two attacks were recorded.

Koalas are sometimes called koala bears but they are not bears. While it has a round face like a bear’s, it is an herbivorous marsupial and its closest living relative is the wombat.

A koala climbing up a tree, Great Otway National Park, Victoria, Australia

The name ‘bear’ comes from the old English word ‘bera’ which means ‘brown’. A male bear is called a boar and a female bear is called a sow.

In Scandinavia, one of the most common boy names is Bjorn, which means ‘bear’. This name dates back to ancient times, and has been found in runestone inscriptions.

Ursus is the Latin word for bear. The girl’s name ‘Ursula’ means ‘little she-bear’.

Sometimes, two bears from different subspecies or even different species – for example, a brown bear and a polar bear – will mate and produce an offspring. The offspring is called an ursid hybrid.

Teddy bears or soft toy bears are among the most popular toys for children. The name ‘teddy bear’ comes from a story about former US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt who, during a bear hunting trip, refused to shoot the bear they had cornered. A toymaker named Morris Michton saw the newspaper cartoon illustrating this news and was inspired to create the first stuffed bear cub, naming it ‘Teddy’s bear’.

Teddy bear at the Place des Vosgesby

Photo1 Giant panda in Ocean Park, Hongkong (J. Patrick Fischer cc3.0)

Photo2 Red panda at the Cincinnati Zoo (Greg Hume cc3.0)

Photo3 Sloth bear (Rob Bulmahn CC BY 2.0)

Photo4 Reconstruction of European cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) (Sergiodlarosa cc1.2)

Photo5 Giant short-faced bear reconstruction (Dantheman9758 cc3.0)

Photo6 Brown bear at Polar Zoo, Bardu, Norway (Taral Jansen/Soldatnytt cc2.0)

Photo7 Sloth bear in tree at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka (Bodhitha cc3.0)

Photo8 Polar bear showing of its flat-footed walking style at Cape Churchill, Canada (Ansgar Walk cc2.5)

Photo9 American black bear feasting on ultimastatus at Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies (Harvey Barrison cc2.0)

Photo9a Brown Bear and its huge, strong claws (Moscow Zoo) (Simm)

Photo10 Alaskan brown bear (Carl Chapman cc2.5)

Photo11 Kodiak brown bear cow sitting up with young cubs (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Larry Aumiller)

Photo12 Ussuri brown bear in the Beijing Zoo (JZ85 cc1.2)

Photo13 Bear den at Sheep Ranch Camp (US Department of Agriculture)

Photo14 Newborn American black bear cubs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mark Betram)

Photo15 Asian black bear aged 44 days (Abu0804 cc3.0)

Photo16 Asian black bear cub up a tree (Abu0804 cc3.0)

Photo17 Panda cub from Wolong, Sichuan, China (Sheilalau)

Photo18 American black bear at Yellowstone National Park (Brocken Inaglory cc3.0)

Photo19 American black bear (Photo by Greg Hume) cc3.0

Photo20 Asiatic black bear at Wroclaw zoo (Guerin Nicolas cc3.0)

Photo21 Ussuri black bear in Kaliningrad Zoo (ThomasMelle cc3.0)

Photo22 Kodiak bear, Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, Alaska (Marshmallow cc2.0)

Photo23 A grizzly in Denali National Park (PaleCloudedWhite cc3.0)

Photo24 Panda Gao Gao in San Diego Zoo, USA (Aaron Logan www.lightmatter.net/gallery/Animals/panda cc1.0)

Photo25 Pandas eating bamboo Washington Zoo (Asiir cc2.5)

Photo26 Baby pandas in Chengdu China (Joshua Doubek cc3.0)

Photo27 Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Barter Island, Alaska (Alan Wilson www.naturespicsonline.com cc3.0)

Photo28 Three Polar bears approach the submarine USS Honolulu while surfaced 280 miles from the North Pole (United States Navy)

Photo29 A polar bear swimming in the Arctic (Brocken Inaglory cc2.0)

Photo30 Sloth bear in Washington, D.C. (Asiir)

Photo31 Sloth bear in Frankfurter Zoo (Wilfried Berns cc2.0)

Photo32 Spectacled bear at the Cincinnati Zoo (Photo by Greg Hume) cc3.0

Photo33 A female sun bear sitting in Basel Zoo (Tambako The Jaguar cc2.0)

Photo34 American black bear in a very human pose (Mike Bender/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Photo34a Large sloth bear (by mape_s cc2.5)

Photo35 Kamchatka brown bear

Photo36 A koala climbing up a tree, Great Otway National Park, Victoria, Australia (Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Photo37 Teddy bear at the Place des Vosgesby (ostromentsky cc2.0)

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