The Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus, Selenarctos thibetanus) also known as Himalayan black bear, Tibetan black bear and moon bear, is a close relative of the American black bear. This species lives in moist broad-leaved forests from northern Pakistan and Afghanistan eastward through the Himalayas to Vietnam and north into China, preferring forrested hills and mountains. In summer, they have been reported at altitudes over 3000 meters, descending to lower elevations in winter. Separate populations occur in the Russian Far East, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. A cream-colored, V-shaped marking resembling a crescent moon stands out on the bear's chest, while the rest of the animal is black, except for the brown muzzle and white chin.
Asiatic bears are solitary and nocturnal, sleeping during the day in hollow trees, caves or rock crevices, although they are often seen in the daytime when fruits are ripening. They feed on fruits, nuts, pine seeds, insects, and carrion. At times, they prey on deer and domesticated animals. In spring, they greatly rely on bark, moss, lichen and acorns. They den for winter sleep in the northern parts of their range. Dens in those parts are usually in tree holes. These bears are easily aroused during the first month but sleep more deeply from December to February.
The Asiatic Black Bear sometimes raids cornfields and attacks livestock. Occasionally, it has been reported to kill humans. For these reasons, this species is hunted by people, and it also has declined because of the destruction of its forest habitat. Asiatic Black Bear is probably the one most severely affected by the commercial trade in bear parts. The species has been given an overall classification of vulnerable by IUCN and also is now on Appendix 1 of the CITES.
- Bears. Charles Fergus, Amelia Hansen
- A Guide to the Mammals of China. Andrew T. Smith, Yan Xie, Robert S. Hoffmann, Darrin Lunde, John MacKinnon, Don E. Wilson, W. Chris Wozencraft (editors)
- Walker's Carnivores of the World. Ronald M. Nowak
Asiatic Black Bear
Photo © Larysa Johnston