The Himalayan white-breasted bear is a rather rare animal that has several names. It is often called the white-breasted, Asian or Tibetan bear, Himalayan or lunar, and also Ussuri. The animal lives in deciduous or cedar forests. Lives in large hollows or nests in trees.
Origin of the species and description
At the origins of the origin of the white-breasted population are ancient bear individuals, from which all modern bears descended. White-breasted bears are much smaller than brown bears, but differ from them in the most toned physique.
Bears have a lifespan of no more than 27 years. The maximum lifespan of a moon bear in captivity is 30 years.
Appearance and Features
The head of an adult is relatively small, with a long narrow muzzle and large, wide-set, funnel-shaped ears. The coat of the animal is long, thick on the chest there is a white spot in the form of the letter «V». The wide croup of the animal is much larger than the withers.
The large claws in adults are strong, strongly wrapped and pointed. The paws, especially the front ones, are very powerful, strong and longer than the hind legs. Bears have a total of 42 teeth.
Individuality in this type is not expressed enough. The fur is shiny, black, on the chest there is a snow-white or yellow V-shaped spot, which is why the animal is called white-breasted. The body length of an adult male is 150-160 cm, sometimes reaching 200 cm. Females are smaller, up to 130-140 cm long.
Where does the white-breasted bear live?
The geographic habitat of moon bears is associated with the presence of wild tropical and subtropical broad-leaved forests. Animals live in virgin cedar and deciduous Manchurian forests, oak groves and cedar forests, in groves with Manchurian walnuts or Mongolian oaks.
These thickets are distinguished by a variety of nuts, various berries and other fruits – the main diet of the moon bear. In the highlands, animals live in the hot summer season, by winter they go lower, into warmer flat thickets.
A significant part of the territory of the white-breasted bear extends to East Asia. Animals come across in other warm countries: China, Afghanistan, the Himalayas, Indochina, Korea, Japan. In the Russian Federation, Himalayan individuals live only in the Ussuri Territory and in the Amur Region. The animal can be found high in the mountains, at an altitude of more than 3,000 km.
The habitat area of the white brook in the Russian Federation coincides entirely with the area of broad-leaved, oak and cedar forests.
What does the white-breasted bear eat?
В the menu of Himalayan bears is dominated by lean food:
- common nuts, hazel;
- oak acorn and pine nuts;
- various berry sweet fruits;
- herbal plants, buds or leaves of trees.
Bears love bird cherry and raspberries. With a plentiful harvest, animals concentrate in the floodplains of rivers and springs and enjoy eating sweet berries with pleasure. Often bears empty apiaries, in some cases a stolen beehive is covered by a bear in water to neutralize the bees.
Bears often eat animal food — small insects, worms, larvae. Even in a hungry spring, after waking up from hibernation, white-breasteds do not prey, do not fish, but do not neglect carrion. Sometimes bears may attempt to attack wild horses or livestock. Bears can be dangerous for humans as well.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The Himalayan bear is an excellent climber, spends a semi-arboreal way of life. The lunar beast spends more than 50% of its life on the tops of trees. There he trades, getting his own food, fleeing from opponents and an annoying gnat.
It costs nothing for a bear to climb to the top of a large tree, up to 30 m high, in 3-4 seconds. From a height of 6-7 meters, the beast jumps easily, without hesitation. Climbing onto the crowns of large cedars, the beast sits on thick branches. Breaking branches around itself and eating delicious fruits from them, the beast gets its food. The smart animal does not throw away the gnawed branches, but puts it under itself, like a bedding. The result is a cozy nest that can be used for an afternoon nap in a safe place.
When meeting with a person, the animal slowly moves away, episodes of hostile behavior are rare. Bears never accidentally attack people. After shots and wounds, it often runs away, but can resolutely rush at its offender. She-bears guarding cubs aggressively make threatening attacks towards a person, however, they bring the attack to an end only if the person flees. This type has considerable physical strength and good mobility.
White breasts behave like ordinary bears in hibernation:
- they do not excrete urine or feces;
- during hibernation, the heart rate decreases from 40-70 to 8- 12 beats per minute;
- metabolic processes are reduced by 50%;
- body temperature drops by 3-7 degrees Celsius, so the bear can easily wake up.
At the end of the winter period, males lose up to 15-30% of their weight, and females lose up to 40% of their weight. The bears leave the den around the 2nd mid-April.
The white-breasted bear has a wonderful memory, he remembers good and bad well. And the spectrum of mood is quite extensive — ranging from peacefully quiet to extremely agitated and vicious.
Social Structure and Reproduction
White-breasted bears communicate with each other using a loud voice. If the cubs are isolated from their mothers, they make a cry of summons. Low guttural sounds may be a sign of toptygin’s displeasure, and simultaneously with the clicking of teeth — his hostility.
The Himalayan beast often spends the entire winter hibernation in the hollows of large trees. More convenient for wintering are large hollows in large trunks of poplars or lindens. Access to such a lair is at least 5 m from the ground. According to the weight of an adult bear, suitable trees should be at least 90 cm across.
Rarely, when there are no large trees or they are cut down, the bear can winter in other suitable hiding places:
- in pits under tree roots;
- in built large nests under fallen tree trunks;
- in rock caves, crevices or grottoes.
The Ussuri bear is characterized by seasonal movements of the wintering grounds to deciduous forests and back, while crossings occur along the same routes. Wintering areas are concentrated in zones separated by large watersheds. Most often, the winter den is located within the personal area, and near the den, the white-breasted bear seeks to confuse the tracks so as not to give out its location.
Except for the mating season, moon bears lead an isolated nature of existence, from time to time a few individuals in areas with abundant food. Some social hierarchy can be traced among white-breasted women, associated with different ages and weights of males. This is especially evident during the marriage season. Those of the young males, whose weight is less than 80 kilograms, have almost no chance of copulating with females.
Bears often establish optical contact with each other when they show their own dominant or subservient status by their postures and movements. To determine subservient status, the bear retreats, sits down, or lies down. To prove his own dominant position, the bear goes forward or runs towards the opponent.
To communicate with other white-breasted bears, animals use their own acute sense of smell. Animals make their marks: they urinate on tree trunks or itch, rub against tree trunks. This is what animals do in order to keep their own scent on them. The opponent will immediately learn the owner of the territory and go home. Private territories can be 5-20 and even 35 square meters. km. It depends on the availability of food on the site. The more varied the forage, the smaller the area.
The white-breasted bear is a polygamous creature. Females enter mating periods at random intervals. Therefore, copulation can occur with different males within 10-30 days. Couples appear for a short period of time.
The breeding season lasts from mid-June to mid-August. The young generation of animals reaches sexual adulthood at the age of 3, however, numerous females often remain without offspring. Pregnancy lasts 7-8 months. The female usually brings up to 2 cubs in late December or mid-January. Cubs weighing 250-350 grams appear, they are formed for a long time and even at the age of 2 months they are absolutely defenseless. Babies finish feeding milk at 3.5 months.
Natural enemies of the white-breasted bear
The enemies of the white-breasted are large wolves, tigers, brown bears. The most dangerous tiger, from the claws of which it is difficult to get out alive. But the destruction of Himalayan bears by predators is very rare, since bears are very strong animals and are able to give a worthy rebuff to any predator. The decline in the number of the Himalayan bear is considered only the result of human activity.
Population and species status
With relatively low rates of reproduction of white-breasted bears, there is a constant decrease in the number of the population. Females give the first offspring only for 3-4 years of existence. No more than 35% of females take part in breeding every year. Each excess of fishing load leads to a rapid decrease in the population. Also, fires, numerous logging and poaching lead to a decrease in the population.
The white-breasted bear is a valuable object for illegal hunting by poachers. It is often shot for expensive bile and tasty bear meat. White-breasted bears are often destroyed because of their beautiful skin and valuable fur.
White-breasted bear guard
The lunar beast was listed in the Red Book of Russia in 1983. Since 1977, catching the Himalayans is prohibited. The population concentration is 7-9 individuals per 100 sq. km, but human economic activity is increasingly forcing the bear to move to the worst habitats. In winter, hunters often cut down trees suitable for animals, which leads to a decrease in hollow trunks. In numerous regions, the number of the white-breasted bear has now decreased due to the lack of wintering areas.
The number of Ussuri bears in the 80s was 6000 — 8000 heads, in Primorye – 4000 & # 8212; 5000 individuals. Its number continued to decrease in subsequent years. It has been established that every year these animals decrease by 4-4.6%. This happens even in protected areas, despite immigration in autumn from neighboring lands.
Poaching causes maximum harm to bear populations. The shooting of females with cubs is especially detrimental, the total share of which in prey exceeds 80%. All babies are caught together with the queens.
Deforestation of wild forests, especially cedar and deciduous forests, forest fires and human activity deprive white-breasted bears of their main habitats, pushing them to lands with the worst food and protective conditions. Cutting down hollow trees deprives animals of more practical and safer winter shelters. A decrease in the number of reliable nests increases the death of white-breasted bears from predator enemies. Since 1975, licensed fishing has been introduced in the Primorsky area, and since 1983, moon bear fishing has been completely prohibited. Since the 80s, a complete embargo on catching the animal has been established in Khabarovsk.
In the late 60s, the total number of the Himalayan bear in Russia was 5-7 thousand individuals. In the 80s, the number of this animal was estimated at 4.5-5.5 thousand heads. Amur zone: 25-50 individuals. Jewish – the number of this type is from 150 to 250 heads. Khabarovsk region up to 3 thousand individuals. In the Primorsky region, the number of individuals was estimated from 2.5 to 2.8 thousand heads. The total number in the Russian Federation is estimated at 5000 — 6000 individuals. The Himalayan white-breasted bear needs active protection from poachers and the complete destruction of the population.