Did you know that bears are amazingly intelligent, have excellent memories, can use tools and feel intense grief?
Here’s a look at the extraordinary lives of bears: from using tools to jumping from happiness. How many of these facts did you know?
1. Sweet teeth
Bears have roamed our mountains, forests, jungles and arctic spaces for millions of years. In 2017, researchers reported the fossilised remains of a 3.5-million-year-old bear in Canada. And just like its modern relatives this bear had a sweet tooth. The researchers found evidence of tooth decay – probably caused by eating large amounts of sweet berries.
2. Brainy business
Bears are very intelligent animals. Scientists researching American black bears discovered their counting ability. They could distinguish large and small numbers of dots as successfully as monkeys!
3. Using tools
Studies have shown that that bears are capable of planning and thinking things through. Wild brown bears have also been recorded picking up rocks and using them to scratch their itchy faces.
4. Talking together
Bears use around 11 different sounds to communicate, including growling, grunting, clacking, huffing, barking and moaning. There is much research trying to determine what they mean - researchers have found that moaning can mean both contentment or distress.
Body language is important too. Workers at our Romanian and Pakistan bear sanctuaries report the rescued bears jumping up and down with happiness when they smell their favourite foods or see their favourite people. And scientists have noted brown bears using a ‘play-face’ – an open-mouth that tells others they are ready to play.
5. Good sense
Bears have excellent senses of smell, sight and hearing. They can smell food, cubs, a mate, or predators from miles away. This is shown by rescued blind bears at our partner sanctuaries. They use their remaining senses and good memories to navigate themselves around the enclosures, bathe in pools and find food.
6. Feeling intensely
These highly sensitive animals are not only capable of showing happiness, they show intense grief too. Cubs cry and moan miserably when separated from their mothers. This can continue for weeks if their mothers die.
The team at our Balkasar sanctuary in Pakistan also recognised trauma in Pooh - a bear rescued from baiting. He had no interest in anything and shook in distress. To trigger his interest, they put dried meat in bones and spread them near him. Eventually the strong and delicious smell coaxed him out of his stressed state.
7. Close bond
Mothers and cubs are extremely close; mothers will fight to the death to protect their young from predators.
Mothers teach cubs how to forage for food and protect themselves by climbing trees. The cubs also have great fun playing with their mother and siblings. Researchers have found that the more brown bear cubs play, the more likely they are to survive into adulthood.
Moving the world for bears
Bears are threatened worldwide through habitat loss and hunting for use in entertainment and traditional Asian medicine.
With your help we will stop the cruelty that the wildlife trade for medicine and entertainment inflicts on the world’s bears. With your support we can keep these magnificent animals in the wild where they belong.