Currently, eight species of bears live in diverse habitats throughout the world. Today, true bears inhabit every continent except Africa, Antarctica, and Australia. The giant panda of China and Tibet is a true bear, but the koala bear of Australia is not a true bear, it is a marsupial. Three species of bears live in North America: the American black bear, two brown bear subspecies (the grizzly bear and the Kodiak bear), and the polar bear. Only one species of bear, the spectacled bear, also known as the Andean bear, (shown left) lives in South America. In addition to the giant panda and the brown bear, three other species of bears live in Asia: the sun, sloth, and Asiatic black bears. The only species of bears found in Europe are the polar bear and the brown bear.
The video below presents more background on North America’s bear species.
In this Lesson Two: The World of Bears, students will learn about the eight species of bears found worldwide, including their distribution, habitats, status, and observe and describe similarities and differences between them and the Florida black bear.
While as of 2016, no bear species are listed as endangered (in danger of becoming extinct throughout its natural range), the giant panda is the most in danger of becoming extinct in the near future due to its low population numbers. The spectacled bear, sun bear, sloth bear, polar bear, and Asiatic black bear are threatened. Threatened species are species that could become endangered in the future. The populations of two of the world’s eight bear species, the American black bear and brown bear, appear to be stable. Between 1974 and 2012, the Florida black bear was listed as a state threatened species. Due to successful conservation efforts, it was removed from the list in 2012 and is protected under the Bear Conservation Rule (F.A.C. 68A-4.009). One factor threatening the continued survival of the Florida black bear and many other bear species is habitat loss. Throughout the world, bears have already lost between 50 and 75 percent of their original habitat.
Key Question: Where do the bears of the world live? How is the Florida black bear different from other bears?
Main Topic: Distribution, characteristics and status of the world’s bear species
Format: Mapping and classification activity
Description: Students use descriptive information to map the geographic and habitat distributions of the world’s bear species. They also classify the world’s bear species into groups based on attributes such as status and food preferences.