The Brown bear is a large mammal with a notable hump of muscles over its shoulders. This animal is the second largest species of bear. The legs of Brown bear are strong with huge paws. Their claws are rather long on their front feet, allowing them to dig their dens as well as dig for food. The ears are relatively small and the face is concave while the head is large with powerful jaws. Brown bears have ability of standing and walking on their hind legs; they do so in order to determine location of a food source or to identify a threat. These animals have thick coat, varying in color from black to brown and blonde. The guard hair of these animals is longer, sometimes having white tip, which gives them grizzled appearance.
These bears are found in very small numbers from North America to Western Europe, Palestine, Eastern Siberia and Himalayan region. The habitat of the Brown bear is usually riparian areas. These bears live along rivers and streams in prairies, alpine meadows, woodlands and forests.
The brown bear is a territorial animal, leading solitary life. The bears usually forage in mornings and evenings, resting in cover by day; however, they are active at any time of the day. They spend the winter months in dens, entering a dormant state. Brown bears are not full hibernators, so can be woken at any time. Their dens are usually caves, hollow logs or crevices. From time to time, Brown bears congregate into large groups to feed. The groups have social hierarchy system, based on age and size. With coming of the autumn, some individuals travel hundreds of kilometers in search of a suitable source of food.
Brown bears are omnivores. What they eat largely depends on what kind of food is available at a particular season. Thus, in the spring they feed on grass and shoots, in the summer they eat berries and apples while in the autumn they consume nuts and plums. In addition, they eat reptiles, insects, roots and honey. Brown bears, living in the Canadian Rockies, feed upon mammals such as moose or elk whereas those in Alaska eat salmon in the summer.
These animals don’t have a certain mating system. They can be monogamous, living with the same mate from several days to several weeks. During this time, the male competes with other males in the area, protecting the female from them. During the breeding season, which lasts from May to July, a female can mate with multiple males – behavior, that can be characterized as polygynandry. The period of gestation lasts 8 weeks, yielding 1-4 cubs. The cubs are ready to start foraging with their mother. The female breastfeeds them until spring. For 2-4 years, the mother teaches the cubs survival techniques: the babies learn where to den, how to hunt and how to defend themselves. Males don’t mate until they are able to compete with other males in the area for mating rights while females reach sexual maturity at 5-7 years old.
The major threats include habitat loss and fragmentation through the extension of human habitat: highways and settlements together with development of agriculture bring to decrease of their habitat. In addition, due to hunting on sheep and cattle, these animals have been persecuted by humans as predators of domestic livestock. Also, these bears are occasionally hunted for sport. On the other hand, some isolated populations of Brown bear are threatened with adverse genetic affects. And finally, these animals are poached for their paws and gall bladders that have high commercial value.
The population of the Brown bear is currently stable and not endangered. In the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Least Concern (LC). The global population is more than 200,000 individuals with about 100,000 of them living in Russia and 14,000 – in the rest of Europe. Other countries with a large number of population include US (33,000) and Canada (25,000).
On one hand, being predators, these animals control prey species. On the other hand, they play important role in the ecosystem, dispersing seeds and thus sustaining the environment.