Himalayan Black Bear in Darjeeling Zoo (Tej Patel – Creative Commons Licence)

Accepted scientific name: Ursus thibetanus laniger  (Pocock, 1932)

Description:  Black pelage with a light brown muzzle and a pale yellow or whitish crescent on the chest. On average around 1.4 to 1.7 metres in length and weight from 90 to 200 kg (the higher figure only likely just prior to hibernation). 

Himalayan black bear  – 1896 (Friedrich Specht (1839-1909) (Public Domain)

Range:  Through the Himalaya from Bhutan in the east to Pakistan in the west in mountainous areas and jungles.

Approximate range of Himalayan black bear outlined in red (mapbliss.com / Bear Conservation – Creative Commons Licence)

Habitat:  During the summer Himalayan black bears can be found in warmer areas of Nepal, China, Russia, and Tibet as high as 4,000 metres, approaching the treeline.  In winter they descend to the lower, tropical forests typically at around 1,500 to 2,000 metres.

Status: Protected since 1977 and listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Life span: Probably in the region of 25 to 30 years in the wild.

Food:  The bears are omnivorous although predominately herbivorous feeding on grasses, herbs, fruits, nuts including acorns, pine nuts, larvae, invertebrates, termites, small mammals, eggs, bees and honey.  They will also eat carrion when available and take grain from areas of cultivation and have been known to prey upon sheep, goats and cattle.

Behaviour:  Naturally diurnal but many are largely nocturnal in order to avoid contact with humans.  Often rest during the day in caves or hollow trees.  Believed to mate in October and cubs are born in February in the den.  Cubs usually stay with their mothers for two years during which time she will not become pregnant again.  Females are sexually mature at around three or four years of age.

Threats:  The main threat is loss of habitat to agriculture, forestry, forest fires and housing with a resultant increase in conflict with humans.  Poaching continues to be a serious problem.


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Page updated 07 April 2021