Accepted scientific name: Ursus arctos gobiensis (Sokolov and Orlov, 1992)
Description: A relatively small bear with brown fur and often having lighter patches on the neck or chest. During the winter months grey patches may appear within the pelage. Length is documented as between 147 and 167 cm, weight between around 50 and 120 kg. Unusually among brown bears the claws are blunt.
Range: Great Gobi region of Mongolia with 82% of the range falling within the “Strictly Protected Area” of Great Gobi section A.
Habitat: Mountainous desert and desert flats.
Status: Critically endangered. Listed under CITES Appendix I and protected as “Very Rare” under part 7.1 of the Mongolian Law on Fauna (2000) and in the Mongolian Red Book (1987 & 1997). Hunting of bears is prohibited in Mongolia. In 2014 it was estimated that the population had fallen to just 29 bears. Following government action to safeguard habitats and to organise food dumps before winter hibernation, the Gobi Bear Project estimated that the population had increased to 40 animals by 2020.
Life span: Probably between 20 and 25 years.
Food: Wild rhubarb rhizomes, nitrebush berries, wild onion, grasses and other green plants found in oases. Only around one percent of the diet consists of meat, mainly rodents and carrion.
Behaviour: Little information is available. Gobi bears are diurnal and, except during mating and for mothers with cubs, are solitary. They hibernate in winter dens, made in south facing mountain caves or from dried grasses, from November to February or March. Cubs are born in the winter den and remain with the mother for around two and a half years during which time she will not become pregnant again. Whilst litters of two can occur, most appear to be of a single cub..
Threats: The very low numbers of these bears make them vulnerable to environmental changes and disease due to inbreeding and low rates of reproduction. Drought and the continuing disappearance of water sources are an ongoing threat, exacerbated by the presence of illegal mining operations.
Last 22 Gobi Bears Endangered by Climate Change in Mongolia –article in Scientific American – 20 November 2012
Can the World’s Rarest Bear Be Saved? – article in National Geographic – 2014
“Tracking Gobi Grizzlies” by Douglas Chadwick. Published 2017 by Patagonia Books.
Page updated 15 February 2021