The brown bear

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is a large bear species found across Eurasia and North America. It is one of the largest living terrestrial members of the order Carnivora, rivaled in size only by its closest relative, the polar bear, which is much less variable in size and slightly bigger on average. Adults of different subspecies range in weight from 80 to 600 kg, with males being heavier than females. Despite its name, brown bears aren’t entirely brown; the pelage can be reddish to yellowish-brown, and dark brown to cream in color. During winter, brown bears in some populations hibernate and emerge during spring to regain up to 180 kgof weight. They have well developed dentition and claws, ideal for their lifestyle.

The brown bear is mostly found in forested habitats, and can be found in elevations of 5,000 m. It is omnivorous, and consumes a variety of plant and animal species; with the former comprising 90% of its diet. The bear hunts animals as small as rodents, to animals as large as moose or muskoxen. In parts of coastal Alaska, brown bears predominately feed on spawning salmon that come ashore to lay their eggs. The brown bear is a solitary animal, except in the breeding season. Females protect their young for an average of 1.5 to 4.5 years. Brown bears have one of the largest skulls of any land-based carnivore, and are able to make use of tools. They are long lived animals, with an average lifespan of 25 years in the wild. Attacks on humans, though reported, are generally rare.

While the brown bear’s range has shrunk, and it has faced local extinctions across its wide range, it remains listed as a least concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with a total estimated population in 2017 of 110,000. Populations that were hunted to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries are the Atlas bear of North Africa and the Californian, Ungavan and Mexican populations of the grizzly bear of North America. Many of the populations in the southern parts of Eurasia are highly endangered as well. One of the smaller-bodied forms, the Himalayan brown bear, is critically endangered, occupying only 2% of its former range and threatened by uncontrolled poaching for its body parts. The Marsican brown bear of central Italy is one of several currently isolated populations of the Eurasian brown bear and is believed to have a population of just c. 50 bears.

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