East Siberian brown bears (Bear Conservation – Creative Commons Licence)
Accepted scientific name: Ursus arctos collaris (Frédéric Georges Cuvier, 1824)
Description: Smaller than Kamchatka brown bears (U. a. beringianus) but larger than Eurasian brown bears (U. a. arctos) with long and dense fur, usually dark but varies from pale brown through cinnamon to dark brown. Some bears (the upper Yenisei River population) have white collars, hence their Latin name.
Range: Eastern Siberia from the River Yenisei to the Altai Mountains. Also found in northern Mongolia, far northern Xinjiang in China, and in extreme eastern Kazakhstan. Not present in the habitat areas of the Kamchatka (U. a. beringianus) and Ussuri or Amur (U. a. lasiotus) brown bears.
Distribution of European and Asian subspecies of Ursus arctos with East Siberian brown bear range shown in light green (Bear Conservation – Creative Commons Licence)
Habitat: The Taiga, (boreal forest), of the Altai Mountains and the numerous valleys of the region. The forests are coniferous, consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches.
Status: Russia has the largest black bear population in the world. The brown bears of East Siberia are populous but, nonetheless, are considered to be endangered as they are still largely treated as a game animal. Around 5,000 bears in the Altai Mountains and over 16,000 in the East Siberian Taiga. Other population figures not known.
Life span: Assumed to be around 20 to 30 years in the wild.
Food: More carnivorous than European brown bears, will take mammals ranging in size from hares up to caribou (reindeer) and elk. Known to raid hunters’ food stores and huts for food. Data on diet is sparse but, in common with other brown bears, will eat a wide variety of vegetation, seeds, nuts, fruit, roots and tubers, small mammals, carrion and fish.
Behaviour: Information on this subspecies is sparse. The bears build winter dens and typically will occupy these from October or November until late March, April or early May. Mating takes place between May and July and the cubs, usually two or three, are born in the den in January or February. They will remain with the mother for around two and a half years during which time she will not become pregnant again. Except for during mating and for mothers with cubs the bears are solitary.
Threats: Hunting, conflict with humans, mainly due to habitat loss (particularly due to the clear-cutting of forests), and ,increasingly, poaching on a commercial scale to obtain gall bladders and other body parts for use in medicine.
Ursus arctos collaris now encompasses four other previously separately classified subspecies; sibiricus (Siberia), jeniseensis (Krasnoyarsk region), kolymensis (Kolyma River), and baikalensis (Irkutsk region).
The brown bears of the Kolyma and Anadyr basins are included in this subspecies but they are similar to the arctic grizzlies of North America, being relatively small and long-haired. Some authorities believe that they should be classified as a further, separate subspecies.
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Page updated 20 February 2021