Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Moon Bear Facts

The bear family has eight different species, ranging in size from the 50kg Sun bear (found in SE Asia), which has a distinctive orange ‘sun’ mark on its chest, to the massive and powerful polar bear (Arctic), which measures up to 3.5m, and weighing an incredible 650kg, as heavy as 10 people!

How is a Moon bear classified?

Living things can be organised into different groups.  Species that are alike are grouped together.  This is called classification.

Class:                    Mammals

Order:                   Carnivores

Family:                  Ursidae (bears)

Species:                Ursus thibetanus

Moon bears, or Asiatic black bears, are medium sized, measuring up to 1.6m and weighing up to 115kg. 

Moon bears are special

Moon bears have shaggy, thick black fur with a distinctive yellow crescent across the chest, and large round ears.  The females are often dominant and can be distinguished by a thick ruff of fur around the neck.  Highly intelligent, Moon bears have a large vocabulary of sounds.

Distribution

Found throughout southern Asia, from Iran to Japan.  Each bear will have a home territory of up to 8 miles.

Habitat

Moon bears prefer heavily forested areas in hills and mountains, and are found in tropical rainforests, temperate broadleaf and tropical monsoon forests.

Diet

Moon bears are omnivorous and depending on season and location can eat acorns, beech nuts, cherries, bamboo shoots, leaves, grasses, grubs and insects.

Adaptations

The moon bear is ideally adapted for life in Asia’s mountain forests.  They are excellent climbers, aided by their short strong claws, and swim very well.  They usually walk on all fours, but will stand on hind legs to reach food or fight.

Behaviour

Moon bears are ‘crepuscular’, active at dawn and dusk.  They often hibernate between November and March, and can migrate in warmer months to higher altitudes and descending to lowlands in colder months. 

Moon bear society

Moon bears are usually solitary except during the breeding season, though little is known about their reproductive behaviour.

Reproduction

With a lifespan of around 30 years, bears mature by around three years.  Mating is usually in late summer and gestation around eight months.  Females give birth in caves to twins in spring, which are weaned by 3½ months but stay with their mother for two years.

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