Animal Spotlight: Sloth Bear

Animal Spotlight: Sloth Bear

Looking for Family Ursidae*
*rhymes with sky

When you look up into the night sky for the stars that form The Big Dipper and The Little Dipper, do you realize you’re searching for some of the brightest stars within Ursa Major and Ursa Minor?

First thing to know

This shaggy black bear is not related to sloths. Like polar, grizzly (a subspecies of brown), and Andean bears, the sloth bear is not a slow mover and can easily outrun a human. Compared to these bears, however, it does have some quirky characteristics which confused early scientists when they were trying to classify and name it.

About that diet!

All bears are classified as omnivores which simply means they can eat both animals and plants; however, each species has evolved differently within its own ecosystem and has developed its own preferential food sources. Bears and their diets range from the obligate, mostly carnivorous polar bear, which thrives on seals, to the mostly herbivorous panda bear, which thrives on the foliage of bamboo trees.

Living in the wild forests and grasslands of Asia

Like many animals, sloth bears live a solitary existence, usually coming together only for breeding; however, if food is plentiful, they may gather in groups. Like all bears, a female sloth bear will give birth to her blind, hairless cubs in a den where they will live with mom until they’re able to exist safely in the outside world. Everyone knows how fiercely protective a mother bear can be, but the sloth bear goes above and beyond- she will carry her cubs on her back until they’re about 9 months old. Remember that long, shaggy black fur on mom’s back? In little cubs’ hands, it comes in very handy for grabbing, climbing up, and hanging on! Traveling this way provides the cubs with camouflage from predators and keeps them safe until they can move more quickly on the ground.

Advocating for the Reid Park Zoo expansion. Not affiliated with Reid Park Zoo, The Reid Park Zoological Society, or The City of Tucson Parks and Recreation.

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