The Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus) also known as the moon bear, and white-chested bear, is a medium-sized bear species native to Asia.
It lives in the Himalayas, in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian Far East, the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan, and Taiwan.
Asiatic black bears live in moist forests, on steep mountains, and in areas where the vegetation is thick.
They rarely live in elevations of more than 3,700 meters (12,000 feet). They usually inhabit elevations around 3,500 meters (11,480 feet) in the Himalayas in the summer, and will climb down to 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) in winter. They sometimes occur at sea level in Japan.
The Asiatic Black Bear is, by nature, a long-living animal. The average lifespan in the wild is about 25 years; the oldest Asiatic black bear in captivity died at the age of 44 years.
The size differs between males and females. Adult males weigh 60–200 kg (130–440 lb) with an average weight of about 135 kg (298 lb). Adult females weigh 40–125 kg (88–276 lb), and large ones up to 140 kg (310 lb).
Adults measure 70–100 cm (28–39 in) at the shoulder; the head and body measure 120 to 180 centimeters (47 to 71 in) in length, while the tail is an additional 11 cm (4.3 in).
The Asiatic Black Bear has a coat of smooth black fur with a light beige to white “V” shape on the chest area, a small beige to white colored crescent across the throat, a small spot of white on the chin, and a light brown muzzle.
The ears are large and are set farther apart than on an American black bear.
The body is heavy, the legs are thick and strong, and the paws are broad.
Their claws are short and strong for climbing trees.
They may spend half their life in the trees, although older adults may become to heavy to climb.
When frightened, they can rapidly descended from trees by sliding down tail first.
These bears usually walk on all fours, but stand on their hind legs to attack. Their walking gait is shuffling and their gallop appears clumsy but can be quite fast. They can run up to 40 km/h (25 mph).
Asiatic black bears are the most bipedal of all bears, and have been known to walk upright for over a quarter mile.
They are also good swimmers.
Asiatic black bears are primarily solitary but sometimes they may live in family groups consisting of two adults and two successive litters of young. They will walk in a procession of largest to smallest.
These bears are considered quite intelligent and have outstanding learning ability in captivity.
Asiatic black bears are primarily nocturnal feeders and sleep in a tree hole or in a cave during the daytime, but they do sometimes forage diurnally.
Although their senses are more acute than those of brown bears, their eyesight is poor, and their hearing range is moderate.
They posses an acute sense of smell that lets them locate grubs and other insects up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) below the ground.
Asiatic black bears are omnivorous, though they are primarily vegetarians. They feed on insects, beetle larvae, invertebrates, termites, grubs, bees, eggs, birds, fish, rodents, carrion, garbage, mushrooms, grasses, fruits, nuts, seeds, honey, herbs, acorns, dogwood, and grain.
The Asiatic black bear will not hibernate over most of it’s range but all pregnant females and bears in the more northern regions usually do. Asiatic black bears prepare their dens for hibernation in mid-October, and will sleep from November until March.
Mating practices and birthing seasons are different between populations.
The pregnancy lasts from 7 to 8 months, and cubs are born in a cave or hollow tree. Litters can consist of 1–4 cubs, with 2 being the average. Cubs will nurse for 104–130 weeks, and become independent at 24–36 months.
Asiatic black bears usually avoid man and only attack when they are wounded or trying to protect their young, but unprovoked attacks have been documented many times throughout history.
The Asiatic black bear is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), mostly because of deforestation and hunting for its body parts.
The fossil record indicates that black bears once ranged as far west as Germany and France, though the species now occurs very patchily throughout its former range, which is now limited to the Asian continent.
In Japanese culture, the Asiatic black bear is traditionally associated with the mountain spirit (yama no kami) and is characterized variously as “mountain man” (yamaotoko), “mountain uncle” (yama no ossan), “mountain father” (yama no oyaji), a loving mother and a child.
Being a largely solitary creature, the bear is also viewed as “lonely person” (sabishigariya).
In Hindu mythology, the black bear Jambavantha is believed to have lived from Treta Yuga to Dvapara Yuga. In the epic Ramayana, Jambavantha assists Rama in finding his wife Sita and battle her abductor, Ravana.