The bear family consists of eight species. Although some species are reputed to be fierce and aggressive, bears are typically peaceful, solitary creatures that prefer to roam areas undisturbed by humans. Most bears are omnivores, feeding on both plant and animal matter. All eight species are threatened by habitat loss and from poaching, due to a demand for bear parts, such as gall bladders and paws.
The American Black Bear is native only to North America and is found in a variety of habitats. Black Bears are not always black! They may be cinnamon, blond, or bluish-gray in color, and about 25 percent of them have a white chest blaze.
Found throughout Southern Asia, the Asiatic Black Bear, or Moon Bear, is similar to its American cousin but has longer fur and is predominately black with a white, often V-shaped, patch of fur on its chest.
Brown Bears (including Grizzly Bears) are native throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. With home ranges as large as 500 square miles, they require vast, remote areas of habitat to survive. Because of this, they have been eliminated from much of their historic range. Their fur may be colored white, black, or various shades of brown. Brown Bears have a slightly dished face and a distinctive hump over their shoulders. The largest Brown Bear ever recorded stood 14 feet tall and weighed over 1,600 pounds.
Long thought to be part of the raccoon family, the Giant Panda has been officially classified as a bear since 1995. Native only to China, pandas subsist almost entirely on bamboo. To protect them from bamboo splinters while feeding, the panda’s esophagus has a tough, horny lining and its stomach has a thick, muscular lining.
Polar Bears are the largest of the bear species, weighing up to 1,700 pounds. They are found circumpolar in the Artic, where their white fur helps them blend into their environment. With their partially webbed paws, they are excellent swimmers and can swim for long distances.
The Sloth Bear, found in the forests and grasslands of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan, has a black, shaggy coat with a cream-colored, U- or Y-shaped patch of fur on its chest. Adult Sloth Bears lack upper incisors, which creates a gap in their mouths through which they are able to extend their long, lower lips, forming a tube for feeding. They use this tube to suck up termites and ants, making loud sucking noises that can be heard over 350 feet away. They are also able to close their nostrils at will to prevent ants and termites from getting in and to help create more vacuum while they are sucking.
The Spectacled Bear inhabits the Andes Mountains of South America. Their fur is brown or black, and they get their name from distinctive cream-colored bands that encircle their eyes. They are excellent tree climbers and build nests in trees for sleeping.
Found in the lowland rainforests of Southeast Asia, the Sun Bear is the smallest of all bears, weighing only 60 to 145 pounds. Its coat is made of short, sleek, black hairs. It has a golden- or white-colored crescent shape on its chest and the same coloring also around its eyes.
In the Bible, God used two she-bears to bring judgment upon 42 youths who mocked and ridiculed Elisha. (See Prophets and Kings, 235, 236.) It is a serious thing to speak against God’s chosen servants who are called upon to do a work for Him. “To accuse and criticize those whom God is using is to accuse and criticize the Lord who has sent them.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 466.
David Arbour writes from his home in DeQueen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.