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NATURAL DIET - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

(Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Ursus thibetanus - Asiatic black bear

NATURAL DIET: 

  • Asiatic black bears eat mainly vegetable matter, but they are omnivorous and their diet also includes honey, fungi, invertebrates (insects such as bees, wasps and ants, small crustaceans), small vertebrates and larger vertebrates (killed or eaten as carrion).
  • Different plants are important in different geographical areas.
  • In spring, grasses, sedges, herbs, buds, leaves and bamboo shoots are important, and nuts left from the previous autumn also may be eaten. 
  • In summer, berries are important. This is also the season when more insects are eaten.
  • In autumn, nuts are the main food; mast such as acorns or beechnuts may be very important before denning.
  • Cultivated seed and fruit crops such as maize, sorghum, dates, pineapple etc. are also eaten.

QUANTITY EATEN: --

STUDY METHODS: Scat analysis, also feeding signs, observation and reports from local residents. Measurements of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes are also used.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

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Natural Diet

Source Information

SUMMARY:
  • Asiatic black bears eat mainly vegetable matter, but they are omnivorous and their diet also includes honey, fungi, invertebrates (insects such as bees, wasps and ants, small crustaceans), small vertebrates and larger vertebrates (killed or eaten as carrion).
  • Different plants are important in different geographical areas.
  • In spring, grasses, sedges, herbs, buds, leaves and bamboo shoots are important, and nuts left from the previous autumn also may be eaten. 
  • In summer, berries are important. This is also the season when more insects are eaten.
  • In autumn, nuts are the main food; mast such as acorns or beechnuts may be very important before denning.
  • Cultivated seed and fruit crops such as maize, sorghum, dates, pineapple etc. are also eaten.

General:

  • Fruit and buds, honey, invertebrates, small vertebrates, carrion. Sometimes domestic livestock. (B147)
  • Variable, including fruit, buds, invertebrates, small vertebrates, also carrion and larger vertebrates (killed by breaking the neck). (B424)
  • Asiatic black bears are omnivorous, eating mainly vegetable food, plus honey, insects and carrion; it also hunts. In October in the Dachigan Sanctuary, Kashmir, scat analysis showed the main foods to be fruits and nuts, but remains of insects (wasps) and hair (possibly from carrion) were also identified. These bears are known to kill domestic livestock. In July and August in the sanctuary the bears eat maize and mulberries, while in spring and early summer, before fruits ripen, they eat grass and leaves. (B399.5.w5)
  • Fruits, roots and stems of fleshy plants, including cultivated maize, pineapple and jack-fruit, also white grubs, ants and carrion. They very much like honey, also "mayan" fruit. (B426.8.w8)
  • Fond of acorns (Quercus balut - Holly oak, Quercus dilatata), also mulberries (Morus alba), rose hips (Rosa webbiana), grass, Russian olive (Eleagus hortensis) and ber (Zizyphus nummularia). Carrion is eaten and occasionally goats or sheep are killed and eaten. Some mushrooms and other fungi, also invertebrates such as insects and small crustacea. Raided crops include apricots (Prunus armeniaca), maize, sorghum (Sorghum sudanense), dates (Phoenix dactylifera) and dwarf palm Nannorrhops ritchieana (the thick starchy rhizomatous stem, and the fruit). Lizards may be eaten. (B425)
  • Bears are omnivorous. Food varies seasonally as different plants flower and fruit. In summer, wild fruit and berries, with nuts, pears and apricots taken from orchards, also honey. In autumn these bears will raid ripening maize. Additionally, beetle larvae, termites and other insects are eaten. This bear is quite carnivorous and will take sheep, goats and even cattle. (B392.8.w8)
  • A study in Sichuan, central China, found that these bears were mainly vegetarian and acorns and other mast foods were important in the diet in autumn. (B147)
  • A study in Sichuan, China found that these bears were mainly vegetarian. Foods eaten varied with season. April to early July, young growth of forbes; mid-July to October, berries and fruits of fruiting shrubs, creepers and trees; in the autumn, mast crops. In Wolong, in May and June new shoots of the bamboo Fargesia robustus were the main food. In Tangjiahe, the summer berries were supplemented by new shoots of Fargesia scabrida. There was some evidence of non-plant foods being eaten: hair and bone from a Budorcas taxicolor - Takin was found in one serious of scats, and hair from wild pig (Sus scrofa - Wild boar) in another. Remains of ants (Formicidae) were found in droppings in July; also there were signs along feeding trails that bears turned rocks and rotting logs over while travelling between berry patches. (J187.55.w2)
  • A study in the Tangjiahe Reserve, China, found that these bears ate at least 28 wild plant foods. These included mainly forbes and leaves from shrubs during April to mid-July, with fruits added mid-July to mid-September (as these become available), although forbes remained important in the summer, and were sometimes supplemented by bamboo shoots (Fargesia scabrida) in August. They ate mainly acorns and other nuts (hazelnuts Corylus sp, butternuts Juglans cathayensis) and fruits (Celtis biondii and Actinidia chinensis) mid-September to mid-November. Additionally, Asiatic black bears at Wolong Natural Reserve were noted to forage seasonally on shoots of the bamboo Fargesia spathacea (= Fargesia robusta). (B487.8.w8)
  • The Japanese black bear, Ursus thibetanus japonicus, in spring eats mainly grasses, sedges, buds and herbs, and in summer and autumn eats mainly berries and nuts; key dietary items will vary with area. Acorns of Quercus or Fagus (beechnuts) are usually eaten before denning. (B442.10.w10c)
  • In some areas of Japan, these bears are highly dependent on beechnut (Fagus crenata) for autumn feeding. (J40.68.w1)
  • In the Northern Japanese Alps of central Japan, a study found that bears appeared to prefer Mongolian oak Quercus crispula acorns to Korean stone pine seeds. Feeding signs and scats showed that the pine seeds were eaten, but bears appeared to move down to the upper montane zone (females) or lower montane zone (males) to feed on the acorns as these became available. (J345.12.w2)
  • In the Northern Japanese Alps, it was found that in spring the bears ate oak acorns (Quercus sp.) left from the previous autumn (fall), and leaves and shoots of dwarf bamboo (Sasa spp.), also occasionally budding leaves of willow (Salix sachaliensis) and cambium of evergreen trees. In summer they ate succulent plants at alpine elevations and soft mast (fruits, berries), particularly Japanese cluster cherry (Prunus grayana) at lower elevations. In fall (autumn) all moved to broad-leaved forests in the montane zone and ate hard mast, particularly oak acorns, also walnuts, chestnuts, Korean stone pine seeds and (based on field signs) beechnuts. Additionally, insects (ants and ant eggs, Formacidae, and bees and wasps (Vespidae) were eaten, particularly in summer. Japanese serow (Naemorhedus crispus) were eaten occasionally (indicated by hair and meat in scats and one observation of a bear dragging a serow carcass). Some bears on the southeast of the study area were known to be raiding orchards and apiaries. (J345.14.w2)
  • In the Chichibu Mountains, Japan, diets of black bears were found to vary seasonally and between years. In the spring, the bears ate mainly leaves; acorns and beechnuts from the previous year varied in importance between years. In summer, about half the diet was berries, particularly cherries (Prunus spp.) and Prunus maximowiczii, and in fall most of the diet was nuts including acorns (Quercus crispula), beechnuts (Fagus spp.), walnuts (Pterocarya spp.) and chestnuts (Castanea crenata). Animal materials were eaten mainly in summer and included colonial wasps and bees, ants and other insects; birds and Cervus nippon - Sika Deer also were eaten. (J374.27.w1)
  • A five-year study in the Chichibu Mountains, central Japan, noted that acorns (Quercus crispula) were an important food and were eaten even in poor production years. Beech nuts (Fagus crenata and Fagus japonicus were eaten also, but these were not consumed in poor production years. Other mast, such as chestnuts and Actinidia spp. berries were important alternative foods when supplies of the usual dominant nuts were low. (J450.18.w1)
  • In Taiwan, limited data from spring indicated than the main food was green vegetation; insect remains and muntjac was also present. Scats in summer contained mainly fruits with small amounts of mammal, green vegetation and insect material. In autumn hard mast (nuts) was the main food with mammals (Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac and/or Naemorhedus swinhoei - Serow) the next commonest item, and small amounts of soft fruits, insects and vegetation. Feeding signs indicated that termites and honeycombs were eaten. More mammal material was eaten in the year with low production of oak acorns than in other years. (J345.13.w4)
  • Fruits (fond of mayan fruit), roots, shoots and stem of flesh plants, invertebrates such as grubs and white ants, also carrion and honey. They may raid maize, jack-fruits and pineapple. (B448)
  • A study of the diet of Asiatic black bears in Japan using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis found that bears from the alpine areas ate mainly vegetable material, particularly C3 plants, with a little animal material in spring; the main food eaten prior to hibernation was acorns. Rural bears, particularly known nuisance bears, showed much more variation in isotope patterns. (J345.16.w4)
  • Omnivorous, with a mainly fruit diet. Leaves, insects and other animal matter also are eaten. In Dachigam National Park, Nepal, during early May to early October the main foods are fleshy fruits (soft mast), high in sugar and carbohydrates, e.g. mulberry - Morus alba, cherry - Prunus avium, peach - Prunus persica and raspberries - Rubus niveus. In the autumn, fat-rich items are important - walnuts - Juglans regia, acorn - Quercus robur and also hackberry - Celtis australis. (J178.100.w1)
  • A study in Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, India, in moist temperate forest, observed bears eating Rhododendron arboreum leaves, Berberis asiatica berries and Rubus elipticus berries in spring; Quercus leucotrichophora acorns were found in scats at this time. In summer, scavenging on a cattle kill was observed and food found in scats included Quercus semecarpifolia acorns, Symplocos theifolia berry, Arundinaria falcata leaves and Thamnocalamus spathiflorus leaves. In autumn (October to December), Arundinaria falcata leaves and Thamnocalamus spathiflorus leaves were found in scats (three scats examined). (J345.14.w10)
  • In central Japan, in mixed forest plantations, hard mast e.g. acorns were important in the autumn (fall) diet; it was noted that in some other areas soft mast (Prunus sp., Rubus sp., Cornus sp and Vitis sp. were important). Tree cambium also is used by bears, more in some areas than in others, which may be related to the availability or otherwise of other food resources. (J345.13.w6)
  • In spring, grasses, sedges, herbs and buds; in summer and autumn (fall), berries and nuts. (B442.10.w10c)
  • Asiatic black bears will eat carcasses of their own species. (J187.65.w1)
  • Based on analysis of 82 droppings, most containing a single food item, the most important foods in autumn (October) in the Dachigam Sanctuary, Kashmir, were Celtis australis (40.2%), walnut (32.9%) and acorns (12.1%); oaks are introduced to this area, not native. Other foods eaten included grape (8.5%), Zizyphus vulgaris (4.8%), apple (4.8%), maize (3.6%), apricot (2.4%), rose (1.2%), wasp (1.2%, i.e. one dropping, containing about 20 wasps); feathers (several, in one dropping) and hairs (hangul or cow, in one dropping, possibly from carrion, as bears in this area are not reported to kill livestock). Those seen eating were consuming Celtis (13 individuals), walnuts (two) and acorns (one). It was noted that foods eaten were probably similar to this for September and November. Local reports indicate that in July and August, maize and mulberry were important, while in May and June when fruits are not ripe, the main diet is grass and leaves. Also, bears are reported to eat the resin of Pinus excelsa trees and two trees were seen with heavily clawed bark (marks several months old). (J178.66.w1)

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Quantity Eaten

Source Information

SUMMARY: --
  • --

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Dietary Study Methods

Source Information

SUMMARY: Scat analysis, also feeding signs, observation and reports from local residents. Measurements of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes are also used.
  • Scat (dropping) analysis, direct observation and field signs were used. (J345.14.w2)
  • Analysis of droppings was used. (J374.27.w1)
  • Analysis of scats was used together with observation of signs of feeding and reports from local people. (J345.13.w4)
  • Measurement of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in hairs. (J345.16.w4)
  • Scat analysis and direct observation. (J345.14.w10)
  • Scat analysis (82 droppings), also direct observation. It was noted that most droppings contained only one food item. (J178.66.w1)

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Authors & Referees

Authors

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

Referee

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

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