The word bear comes from the old Proto-Germanic world beron which means the brown one. Ursine referring to anything which is bear-like comes from the Latin word Ursus. A collective of bears is a sleuth.
Bears in Ireland
Bears in Asia and Europe date back to over 5 million years ago and remains have been found in County Leitrim. These remains came from brown bears. Some are displayed in the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre which is close to us here at Bear Essentials. Others can be seen in the National History Museum in Dublin. We have a small bear jaw on display in the Silver Bear Centre.
Recently scientists have discovered that polar bears can trace their family tree back to Ireland. Genetic evidence shows they are descended from Irish brown bears that lived during the last ice age.
Today Bears survive in climates as diverse as the tropics and the frozen Arctic circle.
Generally speaking Bears are shy of humans but can be dangerous especially if they have young to protect.
Bears are said to “hibernate” during the winter months although their cubs are born during this period so, although they do not eat during this time, it is not a traditional hibernation.
Bears have been hunted down through the years posing, as they did, a huge challenge to mankind. However, due to the decline in numbers worldwide, most Bears are protected by law today.
There are 8 different bear species on our planet.
Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
The most common of bears, the Brown Bear is to be found in Europe, North America, East Asia, Tibet, Siberia, Alaska and the Middle East. They vary in size between 2 and 3.5 metres and weigh up to 530kgs. The American grizzly bear is a sub-species of the Brown Bear.
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)
Polar bears are mainly carnivores consuming walruses, seals, birds and fish. The polar bear weighs up to 650 kg and can be as long as 3metres. It’s dense fur protects it from the severe cold weather of the Arctic. Polar bears are protected but it’s habitat is in grave danger of erosion due to global warming.
Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
The Giant panda of China is in grave danger of extinction; only 700 Pandas exist in the world today and there has not been a lot of success in breeding them in captivity. They are mainly vegetarian consuming up to 14 kg of bamboo shoots and leaves a day. They are shy creatures.
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. He looks more like a cat or a raccoon, the Chinese call him Firefox. A very vulnerable animal and although protected by law, habitat loss, poaching and other reasons are responsible for their decline.
Black bear (Ursus americanus)
The black bear can be found in the USA, Canada and Mexico in large populations. He is very similar in size to the Brown Bear without the noticeable shoulder hump which distinguishes it from the grizzly.
In the rainforest of British Columbia you find the Kermod bear, also known as Spirit Bear. Even so he is genetically a black bear he has white/yellow fur.
Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)
The Sun Bear can be found on the Malaysian peninsula and in southeast Asia as well as in Sumatra and Kalimantana. This smallest of bears lives in forests and is an excellent tree climber. He lives on insects, termites and honey found in the trees but also enjoys fruit and small animals.
You wonder what these amazing big creatures have in common with little cuddly teddy bears.