Himalayan Brown Bear
The Himalayan brown bear, also known as the Himalayan red bear, Isabelline bear or Dzu-Teh, is a subspecies of the brown bear and is known from northern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, and Tibet.
Scientific name: Ursus arctos isabelline
Higher classification: Brown bear
Status: Least concern
Average lifespan in the wild: 25 years
Size: 5 to 8 ft (1.5 to 2.5 m)
Weight: 700 lbs (318 kg)
Group name: Sloth or sleuth
Behavior of Himalayan Brown Bear
Himalayan brown bears hibernate from October through April. They either sleep in natural caves or dens.
Most Himalayan brown bears are diurnal, with a period of activity early in the morning and another later in the afternoon. The Himalayan brown bear will eat before sunrise and then in the afternoon. Some bears have become nocturnal to avoid humans.
The Himalayan brown bear is an omnivore. The Himalayan brown bear eats grass, roots, insects, fruits, berries and small mammals it can catch like gerbils and marmots. The Himalayan brown bear sometimes eats larger prey like sheep and goats, if available, and will browse on carcasses.
The state flower of Himachal in northern India is a favorite food; human harvesting of this plant is curtailing their available food resources. They will not confront humans except when defending themselves and their cubs.
The Himalayan brown bear is called the grass bear by locals because it is overwhelmingly vegetarian. The Asian black bear, Ursus thibetanus, is called the non-vegetarian bear because it more readily goes after livestock. The bears on the Tibetan plateau are more carnivorous, primarily living on pika because the rain shadow of the Himalayas mean there is very little forage for the bears. Bears studied in Pakistan avoid areas that have been grazed by cattle, in part because of forage loss and partially to avoid humans who will kill them to protect the livestock.
The Himalayan brown bear is solitary except during mating season and mothers raising cubs.
Brown Bears feed on a large variety of foods and their diets changes according to the season and their location. They are known to feed on berries, grasses, roots, sedges, bulbs, fungi, rodents, insects, salmon, reindeer, moose, bison, sheep, muskox and carrion.
They feed intensively from spring to autumn in order to put on enough weight to last them through their winter dormancy.
Although mostly solitary, bears sometimes aggregate in large numbers at important food sources and form family foraging groups. In these cases, a dominance hierarchy involving aggression is established. While it is large adult males that are the highest-ranking, the most aggressive individuals are females that have young. The latter two are also the only ones that form social bonds.
Weight and length
Brown bears can weigh from 881 to 3,306 lbs or 400 to 1500 kg.
They can measure from 3.28 to 9.19 ft or 1 to 2.8 m in length from head to rump.
Males are 10% larger than females.
Young born bears are vulnerable, being blind, naked and weighing only 340 to 680 grams. Cubs grow quickly, reaching 25kg by 6 months, and continue lactating for 18 to 30 months while eating a variety of foods. Cubs usually remain with the mother until the third or fourth year of their life. Although they mature sexually between 4-6 years of age, the species continues to grow until 10-11 years old. In the wild, the brown bears can reach 20 to 30 years of age. Despite this long life expectancy, most brown bears die very early.
Himalayan brown bears prefer to live around Rhododendron Campanulatum tree. The tree is locally known as the branch and is the state flower of Himachal Pradesh. In recent years though the commercial exploitation of the tree has increased because of a high value of its fuelwood. This has lead to major chunks of the forested area vanishing making the brown bears lose their favorite canopy.
“This animal is very rare and pride of Himachal, but no initiative has been taken to save this animal and now the destruction of its ideal habitat is posing another threat,” said Dr. Rathore.
He has suggested the state government develop Sunday sanctuary as a brown bear reserve in the lines of the tiger reserve, but nothing has been done so far. Because of lack of funding, he adds, nothing much is known about these bears and the habitat destruction is only pushing them further away.
Distribution and Status
The Himalayan brown bear is generally restricted to alpine meadow and sub-alpine scrub zones above the tree-line in the northern mountain regions of India having Dachigam and Kashmir as its limits. The brown bear is uncommon in India and is considered rare. According to Dr. A.J.T. Singh, (Wildlife Institute of India, letter to Servheen,1988,) the brown bear was sighted just twice during a 9 month Snow Leopard survey in the Jammu and the Kashmir States. Hence status of a population is unknown. International trade in these bears, or their parts, is banned under CITES and by the Wildlife Protection Act in India.
Appearance of Himalayan Brown Bear
The Himalayan brown bear, also known as the Himalayan red bear, dzu-the, and isabelline bear, is a reddish brown color. Himalayan brown bears are larger than almost anything else in their habitat.
Physical Characteristics of Himalayan Brown Bear
Brown Bears are the second largest species of bear, only the polar bear is larger. They have a body length between 2 and 3 m (6.5 – 9.75 ft), a tail length between 5 and 20 cms (2 – 8 inches) and they weigh between 100 and 1,000 kgs (220 – 2,200 lbs). Males can be up to 50% larger than females.
Their thick coat is various shades of blonde, brown and black and sometimes the longer guard hairs are tipped with white giving them a grizzled appearance.They have a large hump of muscle over their shoulders and they have strong legs with huge paws. Their claws are nonretractable and measure up to 15 cm in length.
They have a large head and a concave facial profile. Their ears are small and their jaws are strong. They are able to stand and walk on their hind legs and they do so to identify a threat or locate a food source.
Brown Bears are comfortable in the water and can swim well. They are known to be unpredictable and can be very aggressive, especially when defending their food.
The total number of brown bears on earth is estimated to exceed 200,000. Reliable population estimates exist for several areas in North America and Europe, but few areas in Asia. Russia has the largest number of brown bears, believed to exceed 100,000, while estimates in the U.S, are around 33,000, Canada 25,000, and Europe 15,400. Whereas the species is relatively abundant in more northern parts of its distribution, the southern portions of the range are highly fragmented, with many small populations. In North America, the southern fringe has isolated populations ranging in size from near 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park (Haroldson et al. 2013) to approximately 25 individuals in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana and even less, likely <10 bears, in some southern areas of British Columbia.
In Europe, Brown Bears occur in 22 countries. Based on the existing data on distribution, as well as a range of geographical, ecological, social and political factors these can be clustered into10 populations Scandinavian, Karelian, Baltic, Carpathian, Dinaric-Pindos, Eastern Balkan, Alpine, Abruzzo, Cantabrian, and Pyrenean. Based on reported and updated census data, the largest population is the Carpathian population, followed by the Scandinavian and Dinaric-Pindos populations.The other populations are much smaller ranging from several hundred to less than one hundred. Compared to the last survey, which included data up to 2005, the Scandinavian, Dinaric-Pindos, and Cantabrian populations have recorded a clear increase. The other populations remained stable. The perceived decrease in the Eastern Balkan population is likely due to new monitoring techniques. All population ranges have been relatively stable or slightly expanding. In the Alpine population, the loss of the central Austrian segment in the last decade was counter-balanced by the expansion of the north Italian segment in Trentino, due to translocations from Slovenia. The Pyrenean population also grew because of translocations from Slovenia
Habitat of Himalayan Brown Bear
Brown Bears are the most widely distributed species of bear. They can be found in the densely forested areas, tundra regions and open wilderness of North America, Europe, and Asia. The size of their home range varies extensively depending on their location but it can be between 28 and 1,000 so. km 11 – 386 st. miles.
They tend to be solitary and are territorial. They sometimes gather in large numbers at major food sources and form a social hierarchy based on age and size.
Brown Bears are not full hibernators, they enter a dormant state, and they can be woken easily. They locate a den, such as a cave, crevice or hollow log, and stay they’re during the winter months while they are in dormancy.
Brown Bears breed between May and July but through the process of delayed implantation, the fetus will not begin to develop until the female enters her period of winter dormancy. After a gestation period of 8 weeks, 1 – 4 cubs are born. At birth, the cubs are blind, hairless, toothless and they weigh less than 0.45 kgs (1 lb).
The cubs will feed on their mother’s milk until spring and by this point, they will weigh in the region of 6.8 – 9 kgs (15 – 20 lbs) and are ready to begin foraging for food with their mother. The cubs will remain with their mother for 2 – 4 years during which time they will learn survival techniques such as hunting, how to defend themselves, and where to den.
Females reach sexual maturity between 5 and 7 years old, whereas males will not mate until they are strong enough to compete with other males for mating rights.
Brown Bear – Threats
Grizzlies: Found in 2% of their former range
Brown bears were once subject to hunting and big game trophies, as well as being sought for their meat and hides. Today, however, their products are not in high commercial demand.
Bear gall bladders however reportedly bring high prices on the Asian aphrodisiac market, but although demand is growing, there is no evidence whatsoever that products derived from bear parts have medical value.
Other serious threats to bears are habitat destruction and persecution, problems that affect populations to different extents across their range. Grizzly bears are now found only in 2% of their former range while logging, mining, road construction and other developments have reduced available bear habitat and contributed to the decrease in bear populations.
Facts About Brown Bears
The brown bear is the national animal of Finland.
The grizzly bear (brown bear) is the state animal of Montana.
The California golden bear was designated the state animal of California in 1953 even though it had been extinct since 1922.
The U.S. and Canadian governments consider pepper spray a more effective weapon to stop brown bears aggressive behavior rather than guns.
Brown bears have unpredictable behavior and may attack if they feel threatened.
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