Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Carnivora / Ursidae / Melursus / Species:

< > FEEDING BEHAVIOUR with literature reports for the Sloth bear - Melursus ursinus: Use sub-contents list below, or simply scroll down the page to view findings.

BEHAVIOUR  - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

(Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Melursus ursinus - Sloth bear)
  • Sloth bears turn over rocks and logs to reach ants and termites, break open termite mounds with their claws, blow the debris away and suck out the termites, and may dig 1.5 m deep to reach large underground ant colonies. 
  • They climb trees to reach honey bee nests and sometimes for fruit, but fruit is mainly eaten when it falls. 
  • In hot weather these bears may have to dig in dry stream beds to reach water.

Further information on diet is provided in Sloth bear Melursus ursinus - Natural Diet (Literature Reports)

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

To Top of Page
Go to general Sloth bear page

Feeding Behaviour

Source Information

  • Sloth bears feed on termites (white ants) by digging up the nest, blowing off the dirt and dust, then sucking up the insects in a "vacuum cleaner" fashion. This is noisy (audible at 185 m or more). (B147)
  • Sloth bears use their claws to tear open termite nests then suck out the termites. (B288.w11)
  • Sloth bears use their claws to break down termite mounds, blow the dust and debris away and suck the termites up with the upper lip pressed against the nostrils. They eat carrion, but rarely kill warm-blooded animals themselves. (B392.8.w8)
  • Sloth bears turn over rocks and logs to reach ant and termite colonies, break open termite mounds and dig up to 1.5 m down into the ground to reach large underground colonies (e.g. Dorylus spp. ants). They also climb trees to reach honey-bee hives and occasionally to reach fruit; more often ripe fruits are eaten when they fall to the ground. (B435.w1)
  • In the Royal Chitawan National Park, Nepal, bears were observed feeding on the ground and less frequently in trees. In trees, they fed on honeycomb (a bear was seen straddling a branch, scooping out honey from a comb underneath, and periodically wiping bees from its face), and on ants. On the ground, they were observed digging for termites and ants, either on termite mounds or by shallow digging into the ground. Sometimes they broke open rotten logs. They were also seen apparently grazing on Cynodon dactylon (grass), eating fruits and berries from the ground or off bushes, and in cultivated areas they dug for potatoes and yams. (J46.182.w2)
  • A study in disturbed, unprotected areas of Madhya Pradesh, India, found that sloth bears generally preferred to dig out termite mounds rather than feed on the smaller (although numerous) underground termite colonies. It was also noted that there were always some termites remaining after a bear fed and that colonies quickly recovered. (J345.15.w2)
  • A study in disturbed, unprotected areas of Madhya Pradesh, India, found that most of the trees in the forest areas were of low age classes, producing little fruit; bears therefore were attracted to crop fields near villages in the winter and monsoon, where ber (Ziziphus mauritiana), corn and ground nut (Arachis hypogaea) were available. (J345.15.w2)
  • In the Aravalli hills of Rajasthan, India, sloth bears are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, eating whatever is available in a particular season. It often climbs trees to eat flowers, fruits and seeds, which are available year-round, even when ground cover is greatly diminished in the dry months due to livestock overgrazing. (N25.29.w1)
  • Observations on sloth bears in the Bandhavgharh National Park found that they broke open mounds to feed on termites, ate ants from branches, broke open honey combs, and fed from animal carcasses; they also ate fallen fruits and dug for roots and tubers. (J356.117.w1)

Water:

  • In hot weather these bears may travel long distances to get water, and may have to dig in stream beds to reach water. (B392.8.w8)
  • A study in disturbed, unprotected areas of Madhya Pradesh, India, found many holes in river sand dug by bears to find water. (J345.15.w2)

To Top of Page
Go to general Sloth bear page

Authors & Referees

Authors

Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

Referee

Ellen Dierenfeld (V.w16), David L. Garshelis (V.w98)

To Top of Page
Go to general Sloth bear page