The eight species of bear (MathKnight – CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bears are found in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.  The Atlas bear, a subspecies of the brown bear, was the only bear native to Africa and was distributed from Morocco to Libya.  It has been extinct since about the 1970s.  There are no bears in Australia or Antarctica.

The most widespread species is the brown bear, which occurs from Western Europe eastwards through Asia to the western areas of North America.  Polar bears are restricted to the area of the Arctic Ocean and the American black bear is found only in North America.  A single species, the Andean or spectacled bear, occurs in South America.

All the remaining species are Asian.  These include the Asiatic Black Bear, the Giant Panda, the Sloth Bear and the Sun Bear.  There are also several subspecies of the Brown bear present in Asia.

With the exception of the polar bear, bears most commonly inhabit  forested areas although several species inhabit or seasonally use other areas.  This applies particularly to brown bears but also includes American black bears, some of which inhabit the Labradoran tundra of Canada, and the sloth bear which inhabits both forests and grasslands.

For up to date and detailed maps of the distribution of each bear species please refer to the IUCN species pages using the links below (each of these will open in a new window).

Page updated 11 February 2021