Accepted scientific name: Ursus arctos syriacus (Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1828)
Description: The smallest subspecies of the brown bear, about two to two and a half metres in length and weighing up to around 250 kg. The pelage is greyish-brown, generally of a pale shade. Fur near the shoulders is usually longer and may be darker with sometimes a dark stripe down the back and sometimes a dark brown patch on the top of the head. Often the legs are darker than the rest of the body. The only bear in the world known to have white claws.
Range: Northern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Abkhazia in Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and Turkmenistan. The bear became extinct in Syria around fifty years ago, and much longer ago than that in Israel, Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula.
Habitat: The forests, grasslands and meadows of the mountain regions of its range.
Status: Declining population; endangered. Overall however, Ursus arctos as a species is listed as “of least concern” by the IUCN and listed in CITES Appendix II.
Life span: Presumed to be in the region of 20 to 25 years in the wild.
Food: Omnivorous. Eats fruit, berries, seeds, plants, grasses, nuts, grubs, and small mammals. Will also enter agricultural land in former habitat andconsume cultivated grains and domesticated livestock.
Behaviour: Information on this subspecies is sparse. Builds a winter den in caves or tree hollows (frequently in the higher altitude birch forests). Mating is believed to occur between May and July with cubs born in the winter den around January or early February.
Threats: Habitat loss, mainly through the development of agriculture, increases incidences of conflict with humans. In addition poaching, hunting and the trade in bear-parts for medicine all adversely affect the remaining bears..
Brown bear distribution and status in the South Caucasus by Bejan Lortkipanidze. Article with data on Ursus arctos in the South Caucasus, (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) (PDF document)
Mystery of Brown Bears in Syria (IUCN article from 2011)
Page updated 27 March 2019