Sorry about the delay in this one, but last week I was too sad to write about bears. And this entry kind of makes me sad, too.

The Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus) is the closest living relative to the American Black Bear, and has a wide range in central and eastern Asia. They are also called white-chested bear or moon bear, because of the crescent-shaped white patches on their chests (which also kind of makes them look like the bear version of Batman). They can be found in islands of Japan and Thailand, northern India, the Himalayas, eastern Russia, Korea, and northeastern China. They can be very aggressive towards humans with very little provocation.

Adult Asiatic Black Bears are roughly the same size, although males tend to outweigh the females. On average, they can reach up to 77 inches (1.9 meters) in body length. Males can weigh up to 440 pounds (200 kg), while females weigh around 276 pounds (125 kg). They have large lower jaws, and while they're mostly herbivorous, their mouths are not quite as specialized as panda bears. Their forelimbs are incredibly powerful, so much so that an Asiatic Black Bear with injured hind legs can still climb remarkably well. They can also walk upright for significant distances at a time, more than any other species of bear.

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The diet of Asiatic Black Bears consists of a variety of plant life, including grasses, grains, fruit, nuts, herbs, seeds, mushrooms, and dogwood. They also consume invertebrates like termites, bees and different kinds of larvae. Then they round it off with honey, eggs, carrion, and the garbage generated by humans.

There are currently seven recognized subspecies:

  • Ursus thibetanus thibetanus (Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Assam, Mergui, Annam)
  • Ursus thibetanus formosanus (Taiwan)
  • Ursus thibetanus japonicus (Shikoku and Honshu)
  • Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus (Baluchistan)
  • Ursus thibetanus laniger (Himalayas, Kashmir, Sikkim)
  • Ursus thibetanus mupinensis (Indochina)
  • Ursus thibetanus ussuricus (Korea, China, Russia)

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The breeding season of Asiatic Black Bears occurs between mid-June and mid-August, and after a gestation period of 200 to 240 day, the pregnant sows will give birth to one to four cubs in their birthing dens. The cubs have a very long nursing period, approximately 110 weeks, and aren't fully independent until they reach their second or third year.

Although Asiatic Black Bears are protected to some degree in many of the countries that make up its range, and some of its populations are considered to be critically endangered, they are still poached for its fur, paws and most specifically its gall bladder, which has been used as an ingredient in "traditional medicine" for hundreds of years. Sometimes these bears are "farmed," kept in horrifically cramped conditions while the bile from their gallbladder is periodically harvested. This is actually a legal practice in South Korea. Researches believe that persistent hunting of Asiatic Black Bears by humans is one of the main factors in their seemingly-unprovoked aggressiveness toward people. The bears are also under threat of losing their habitat through deforestation.

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Source for all images used in this post.