The Asiatic black bear is a bear of medium to large size with a large rounded head and small eyes. It has large ears which are farther apart than those of an American black bear. Its body is heavy, and its legs are strong and thick with broad paws. It walks on the soles of its feet, as humans do. It has a short tail which can hardly be seen under its long, coarse coat. Its fur is black with a “V” shape of light beige to white on its chest, a small beige to white crescent on its throat, and a small white spot on its chin. Its muzzle is white.
The Asiatic black bear inhabits a small area from southeastern Iran through to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and across the Himalayan foothills in India to Myanmar. It is also present in all of mainland Southeast Asia except Malaysia and scattered throughout the northeastern and southern part of China. There are also clusters living in North Korea and South Korea, the southern Russian Far East, and the Japanese islands of Shikoku and Honshu, and on Hainan and Taiwan. Asiatic black bears are found on steep mountains, moist forests, and in areas of thick vegetation. In summer they live at high elevations, descending during winter.
In general, Asiatic black bears feed at night, sleeping in a cave or a hole in a tree during the day, but they do sometimes go out during the daytime to feed. In autumn, they increase their nocturnal activity. They live solitary lives and only come together for the purpose of mating or to compete for territory. Although they have relatively small claws, these bears are very efficient climbers, spending most of their time high in up trees where their feeding behavior results in the inadvertent building of nests. Many Asiatic black bears hibernate, but not all of them. During the late summer they store fat to use during hibernation in the winter. Some sleep for the entire winter, while others just hibernate during the worst of the winter weather. These bears usually avoid humans and will only attack if they are wounded or are protecting their young.
Asiatic black bears are polygynandrous, with two or more males mating with two or more female bears. A social hierarchy based on age and body weight of the males means that only larger males are able to mate with the females. This occurs between June to July as well as January and February. Gestation is for 6 to 8 months and usually 2 cubs are born (but the number can be 1 to 4) in a safe, warm winter den between March and April. They are born blind and helpless, depending totally on their mother. They are weaned at six months old, when they start to eat solid foods only, but often stay with her until 2-3 years of age. Young bears are able to breed from 3-4 years of age.
The main threat is illegal hunting for body parts, in particular, the gall bladder, skin and paws. This species also suffers from habitat loss due to logging, the development of human settlements and the building of roads.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Asiatic black bear total population size. According to the IUCN Red List specific populations of this species have been estimated in such areas: China: around 28,000 individuals; Japan: 12,000-19,000 individuals; India: 5,000-7,000 individuals; Russia: 5,000-7,000 individuals; Iran: around 100-200 individuals; South Korea: around 40 individuals. Overall, currently Asiatic black bears are classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are decreasing.