Ussuri black bear in Kaliningrad Zoo (captive animal) (Thomas Melle – Creative Commons Licence)

Accepted scientific name:  Ursus thibetanus ussuricus (Pierre Marie Heude, 1901).

Description:  Also known as the Manchurian black bear (in South Korea).  The largest of the Asiatic black bear subspecies.  They have the characteristic cream or white “moon” collar of Asiatic black bears but have larger ears compared to the other subspecies.  Males typically weigh up to 200 kilograms, females up to about 140 kilograms.

Range:  Named for the Ussuri River in the far east of Russia.  Central and eastern Asia; specifically Southern Siberia, northeastern China and the Korean peninsula.  Mountains of North and South Korea.  Divided from the central Chinese population of U. thibetanus for several thousand years by human presence, accompanying land-use and poaching for gall bladders.

Asiatic black bear range – Ussuri black bear range outlined in red (Chermundy/IUCN/Bear Conservation – Creative Commons Licence)

Habitat:  Found in small numbers in the mountains of North and South Korea (at one time less than thirty bears remained in South Korea but a reintroduction programme is underway).  In northeast China mainly found in conifer forests and in Siberia in  broad-leaved forests.

Status: In common with all Asiatic black bears, Ussuri black bears are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.  South Korea designated them as a Natural Monument Species in 1982 and as an Endangered Species in 2005.  The Asian black bear is listed as a protected animal in China’s National Protection Wildlife Law.

Life span:  Likely to be 20 to 25 years in the wild.  Up to 30 years in captivity.

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.

Behaviour:  Ussuri black bears generally spend the winter in dens.  They are mainly nocturnal when in the vicinity of humans but are more naturally diurnal spending about half their time in trees, often on platforms made from branches and vegetation.  They have the reputation of being extremely aggressive towards humans  Except during mating and for females with cubs they are solitary.  Mating occurs in June and July with litters of from one to three, exceptionally four, cubs being born in January and February in the winter den.  Cubs remain with their mother for around eighteen months during which time she will not become pregnant again.

Threats:  Habitat loss, most often from forestry, and the resultant human conflicts are the main threats to these bears.  This also makes them more vulnerable to poaching for body parts to be used in medicine and to capture for use in bear bile farms.


 Some of the above information taken from International Bear News May 2011, vol. 20 no. 2 pp 9 – 12.

Page updated 16 February 2021