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  • In a sleepy forest, twigs snap underfoot.

  • A wanderer stirs in the brush, moving closer and closer.

  • With each step the forest awakens and stands at attention for one of nature's greatest beasts.

  • There are eight species of bears.

  • Bears are scattered over four of the seven continents.

  • Polar bears and brown bears can be found in North America, Europe and Asia.

  • American black bears are only found in North America, while South America only hosts the spectacled, or Andean bears.

  • And sloth, panda, sun, and Asiatic, or moon bears, are only found in Asia.

  • Bears come in a wide range of sizes.

  • The smallest bear is the sun bear, with males typical growing up to five feet long and weighing 150 pounds.

  • The largest bear is the polar bear.

  • Males can average up to eight feet in length and weigh up to 1,600 pounds, over 10 times as much as the sun bear.

  • Despite their size, bears can move swiftly, sprinting at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, nearly twice the speed of the fastest human ever recorded.

  • Most bears are omnivorous.

  • Outside of the largely carnivorous polar bear, most bear species tend to have a vegetarian diet.

  • The panda bear diet in particular in 99 percent bamboo.

  • Black and brown bear diets are more varied, from seeds and berries, to carrion, small mammals, and salmon.

  • Additionally, many bears enjoy one of natures sweetest treats, honey.

  • They may even consume the bees and the larvae within the beehives they raid.

  • Bears often give birth to twins.

  • While bears may produce up to five cubs in one litter, they usually birth two cubs at a time.

  • At birth, bear cubs are little.

  • Newborn pandas can weigh as little as a fifth of a pound.

  • And the mighty polar bear at birth only weighs about a pound and a half.

  • Most bear cubs remain in their mother's care for 18 to 24 months.

  • During that time, the mother nurses her young and then teaches the cubs how to fend for themselves.

  • The relationship between humans and bears is complicated.

  • For most of human history, bears had been respected and feared.

  • Some cultures have even incorporated bears into their belief systems.

  • But during the Middle Ages, bears became a part of street entertainment in Europe and Asia, and then eventually featured in shows and circuses.

  • Today, measures are increasingly being taken to prohibit the use of bears and other wild animals for entertainment.

  • One can't help but marvel at the sight of the great bear.

  • But as powerful as this beast can be, much is left to be done to preserve its well being in an ever changing world.

In a sleepy forest, twigs snap underfoot.

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Bears 101 | Nat Geo Wild

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    Elise Chuang posted on 2021/09/07
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