Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)


Brief background:

Weight: males - up to 300 kg, females up to 150 kg. In winter, the weight of both sexes can increase by as much as 20%.
Size: males – approximately 200-250 cm | females – approximately 130-150 cm
Sexual maturity age: at the age of 3
Mating period: every 2 years, in June-July
Gestation period: ~7 months
Number of offspring: 1-3 (maximum 4-5), the cubs are born during the time period from late December to early February during winter hibernation
Lifespan: 30-50 years
Natural predators: none
Status of the species in Latvia: Specially protected species. Individual representatives of the species can be met mainly at the N, NE and E of the country. Approximately 20-50 brown bears reside in the territory of Latvia.

Where do they live? Bears are typical inhabitants of large forests. In a mixed forest area, they prefer habitats of larger and older coniferous trees and various mixed wood forests bordering on overgrown clearings, sites of fires, swamps and water bodies. They hibernate in natural hiding places looking for places that are as dry as possible and near water.

How do they live? Bears are characterised by a strong link to the inhabited territory – they will not leave their home, unless something disturbs them or their food base depletes. Bears live in families and alone. Only young individuals after leaving the family (mother and brothers/sisters) are nomadic. Bears are very cautious and discreet animals, good climbers and swimmers - they enjoy playing in water! Bears do not have a strict daily rhythm - they may be involved in feeding activities at night, as well as during the day.

In winter, when their favourite plant-based food can no longer be found, they quit trying and go to bed. The winter of bears passes in inactive state of hibernation, when they survive on the fat reserves that they have accumulated in autumn. The bears go into hibernation, depending on weather conditions and the degree of accumulated nutrient reserves, from October to December, and wake up in March-April. The leaving of the den is affected by the climate/weather conditions, food reserves in the body, various disruptions, for instance, forest felling activities near the den, as well as other factors. Only bears that have prematurely ended hibernation, are hungry or nomadic, as well as mothers with young offspring are dangerous to humans.

What do they eat? Bears, despite their reputation for being large and fierce predators, are typically omnivorous animals. Strange as it may seem, the food base of bears is predominantly of plant origin. Plants are followed by insects and various larvae, eggs of birds that are nesting on the ground and birds themselves, fish, various small vertebrates, nuts, seeds, fruit and berries, honey. Bears seldom feed on large wild animals and domestic animals, dead animals and remains thereof.

Did you know?

  • The brown bear is the most common bear species in the world.
  • The brown bear has 16 subspecies.
  • There are some 200,000 brown bears left in the world today. The largest populations are found in Russia, the United States, Canada and Romania. In many European countries and elsewhere in the world the brown bear has become extinct today.
  • Although classified as predators, bears are typical omnivores. Various plant-based food is the main menu of bears, followed by insects, larvae, eggs of birds that are nesting on the ground and birds themselves, fish, various small vertebrates, nuts, seeds, fruit, berries and honey.
  • Bears survive winter in an inactive state of hibernation, when they survive on the fat reserves that they have accumulated in autumn. The bears go into hibernation, depending on weather conditions and the degree of accumulated nutrient reserves, from October up to December, and usually wake up in March.
  • During hibernation the bears do not excrete (urine and stools).
  • Bear cubs are blind and completely helpless at birth. They weigh approximately half a kilo and are as big as a hand of an adult human.
  • The cubs stay with their mother for two years.
  • Despite being seemingly clumsy, bears can run at a speed of up to 50 km/h.
  • Brown bear ranks among predators with the largest brain volume. They are intelligent animals with good memory.
  • Like humans, bears are plantigrades - while walking, they use the whole sole of the foot as support.
  • Bears see colours.
  • Bears stand on their hind legs to better examine the surroundings. In this position they can make a couple of steps just like humans.
  • Bears are a specially protected species in Latvia, as well as in Europe.
  • Bears are very cautious and discreet animals; if required, they are good climbers and swimmers.
  • The bear almost never attacks humans first, even if come upon in the forest while picking berries or mushrooms. As with all wild animals, it first tries to avoid contact with the human.
  • Only bears that have prematurely ended hibernation, are hungry or nomadic, as well as mothers with young offspring are dangerous to humans.
  • Hybrid species of brown bear are possible worldwide (arising as a result of interspecific breeding).
  • Brown bear is the national animal for the Faroe Islands and Russia, as well as Härjedalen Province (Sweden).
  • Bears even have their own constellations - Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (Great Bear and Little Bear).
  • Brown bears are still among the strongest totem and shamanic animals in the cultures of many peoples and one of the most popular heroes of fairy tales, books and films for children. The main properties that the bears are famous for are their strength, power, solidity, courage, self-confidence, as well as love and affection (especially the bond between mothers and their offspring).
  • The scientific name of bears in Latin Ursus arctos originates from Latin (“Ursus” - bear) and Greek (“Arctos” - bear).

Three bears can be seen at Līgatne Nature Trails.

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