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.  Click on the map for more information.

There are eight species of bear alive in the world today.  Most of these are further divided into a number of subspecies.  To find out more about each species click on the photographs or species names below.

American black bear (Ursus americanus)

The world’s most common bear species is found in 32 states of the United States, all the provinces and territories of Canada with the exception of Prince Edward Island, and in northern Mexico.  There are sixteen recognised subspecies.

Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus)

Found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, the Lao PD, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. There are seven recognised subspecies.

Brown bear (Ursus arctos)

The brown bear is the most widely distributed of all bears and is found in Asia, Europe and North America.  There are sixteen widely recognised subspecies.

Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanolueca)

Confined to the rainforests of the mountainous regions of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.  The Qinling subspecies is found only in the Qinling Mountains, at altitudes of 1,300 to 3,300 metres.

Polar bear (Ursus martitimus)

The range of polar bears is limited to areas in the northern hemisphere which are covered in sea ice for much of the year.  There are no recognised subspecies.

Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus)

Found in Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan and Nepal.  There may still be bears in the wet forests of Bangladesh but this is by no means certain.  There are two recognised subspecies.

Andean (spectacled) bear (Tremarctos ornatus)

Andean bears are South America’s only bear and are found in the Andean cloud forests at heights of up to 4,300 metres (14,000 feet).

Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)

Confined to the lowland forests of southeast Asia.  There are two  recognised subspecies.

Extinct brown bears (Ursus arctos)

Three extinct brown bear subspecies have so far been recognised; the Atlas bear from North Africa, the California golden bear and the Mexican grizzly.


Only by changing human attitudes to bears and to the habitats in which they survive can we begin to address the threats they face at our hands.  Click on the image for more details of the many threats faced by bears in the twenty-first century.


Page updated 06 August 2019