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Asian black bearAsian black bear Bears are large, heavily built mammals. They include the largest carnivorous (flesh-eating) mammals on land: the polar bear and Kodiak bear, a subspecies of the brown bear. Solitary animals, most bears live in forests, and smaller species such as the black and sun bear are good climbers. Northern species, like the brown bear, spend the winter in caves or dens dug under snow. Most bears are actually omnivores, feeding on a range of foods including fish, small mammals, insects, plants and fruits, which they sniff out with their excellent sense of smell. There are eight species of bear: brown, American black, Asian black, polar, sun, sloth, spectacled bears and the giant panda. Most bears seldom attack humans and usually avoid people. They are, however, unpredictable and will attack if they feel threatened.

Sun bearSun bear
A black bearA black bearClick to play video


Most bears are mainly plant-eaters, but they also feed on fish, small mammals and insects. They tend to eat meat killed by other carnivores, but will sometimes catch prey themselves. Some bears have become accustomed to scavenging on human rubbish. The polar bear feeds mostly on seals in its Arctic sea ice habitat, but it, too, feeds on fruit, plants, birds and eggs during its summer months on land. 

Bears can open their jaws very wide and have large teeth. Their sharp front teeth are for biting and tearing meat. They use their back teeth for grinding roots, berries and fish bones.

The smallest bears are the sun bears of East Asia, which are 1.5 m (5 ft) long.

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