Bear

Brown bear • Ursus arctos

Brunbjörn

The brown bear is Scandinavia’s biggest predator. It used to be intensively hunted and was on the brink of extinction in Sweden. Its numbers are now steadily increasing, although it is still threatened from many quarters.

Classification

The brown bear is part of the ursidae (bear) family. There are several subspecies of various sizes; an adult bear can weigh anything from 60 kg to nearly 1 tonne.

Appearance

Brown bears come in all shades of brown – from blond to nearly black.

Ecology

The brown bear lives alone and often roams across large areas. Females with cubs roam over 100-600 sq km, while the males’ areas are larger – covering up to 5,000 sq km.

The brown bear is an omnivore, but mainly has a vegetarian diet. Blueberries make up more than half their food intake, but bears also eat a lot of carpenter ants and wood ants. Meat only constitutes a small proportion of their diet. North American and Siberian brown bears eat a lot of salmon.

The brown bear has good hearing and a phenomenal sense of smell, but its eyesight is probably worse than that of a human.

The brown bear hibernates in the winter, from mid-October to early May. During this time it neither eats nor drinks; it simply lives off its fat reserves.

The bear often builds its winter den in a big old abandoned anthill, or in a gravely hillside. Sometimes it uses natural caves under cliffs and rocks. Bears are also known to occasionally spend the winter on a bed of twigs under a large fir tree.

The female bear gives birth to her cubs in the den in January. The newborns are very small, weighing just 300 g. She rears her cubs alone and they stay with her until they are about 18 months old.

It is extremely rare for bears to attack people in Sweden. The Scandinavian brown bear is said to be the least aggressive of them all.

Reasons for decline

The brown bear was intensively hunted for a long time and disappeared from large parts of its original habitat. The species is classified as “near threatened” (NT) on the Red List of the Swedish Species Information Centre; it is also one of the species in the EU’s Habitats Directive.

Rescue work

The Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project is extensively researching and surveying the Scandinavian bear population. The researchers are gaining valuable knowledge about the bear’s biology, reproduction and how they roam to other areas. Such knowledge is important to ensure that the bear population is managed correctly.

The brown bear around the world

Brunbjörnens utbredning

In the past there were brown bears throughout Europe, in Northern Asia and North America. The bear disappeared from large parts of Europe as long ago as in the Middle Ages. The bear was found throughout Sweden in the early 19th century, but its numbers fell rapidly due to intensive hunting. In the 1920s there were fewer than 130 bears in small limited mountainous regions.

After the brown bear was declared a protected species, its numbers recovered and bears now mainly live north of a line between central parts of the province of Värmland and northern Uppland. The brown bear primarily lives in coniferous forests.

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