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BEHAVIOUR  - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

(Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Ursus thibetanus - Asiatic black bear)
  • Asiatic black bears climb trees to reach fruit and beehives; they will break branches to bring fruit into reach (particularly acorns), and pile the broken branches in a crotch of the tree, forming a platform or "nest". They can tear through several inches of wood to get at honey, and will dig up wasp nests. They spit out the shells of some nuts, such as large acorns.
  • They sometimes raid maize fields and orchards.
  • These bears scavenge meat but also can be active predators, killing animals such as sheep, goats, Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac, Naemorhedus swinhoei - Serow and even up to adult buffalo by breaking their necks.

Further information on diet is provided in Asiatic black bear Ursus thibetanus - Natural Diet (Literature Reports)

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

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Feeding Behaviour

Source Information

  • Climbs to reach foods such as fruit and beehives. (B147)
  • Climbs trees to get fruit, berries and beehives. (B424)
  • These bears will bite large holes through several inches of hard wood to reach honey. (B426.8.w8, B448)
  • May kill animals up to the size of adult buffalo by breaking their necks. (B147)
  • Climb trees to get food; the bear will sit in a fork of the tree, then break off and pull branches towards itself. (B425)
  • This bear sometimes kills sheep and goats. (B425)
  • These bears will kill sheep, goats and even cattle. (B392.8.w8)
  • These bears raid orchards and maize fields. (B392.8.w8)
  • These bears sometimes raid cornfields. (B147)
  • Break branches in towards the tree trunk to get at fruit and nuts. (B285.w4)
  • Asiatic black bears break branches while feeding in trees, placing these underneath themselves to form a nest-like structure. (B442.10.w10d)
  • A study in the Tangjiahe Reserve, China, found that these bears broke branches to reach nuts. One bear was described standing or squatting in a fork of an oak tree, using a forepaw to pull branches towards itself, sometimes breaking the branch off with a bite, and plucking acorns from the branch with its mouth. For large branches, the bear would use both forepaws to pull the branch until it snapped. Discarded branches often were pushed into the tree fork beneath the bear, producing a crude platform on which the bear stood. It was noted that cherry-like fruits are harvested in a similar manner in India, and cherry trees were seen with broken branches. (B487.8.w8)
  • In the Northern Japanese Alps, a young male bear was seen dragging the carcass of a Japanese serow (Naemorhedus crispus) across a creek, suggesting predation on this species; hair and meat of serow were occasionally found in scats. (J345.14.w2)
  • In the Northern Japanese Alps, these bears peel foods such as acorns and chestnuts before eating them. (J345.14.w2)
  • In the Northern Japanese Alps, bears were observed feeding on a wasp (Vespula lewisi) nest in a hollow branch, digging up the nest of a ground wasp (Vespula flaviceps) and trying to enlarge the entrance to a wild honey bee (Apis mellifera) nest. (J345.14.w2)
  • Analysis of scats indicates that each dropping is made of usually one food item and often a bear's stomach contains only one type of food. This suggests these bears generally eat one or a few food types at a time before moving on to find another food. (J374.27.w1)
  • In Taiwan, bears were found to climb trees to reach nuts; they also broke branches in trees to get fruit into reach. They took termites from rotting wood, honeycombs from caves and from underground. They certainly took carrion and were reported to kill ungulates (mainly Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac and Naemorhedus swinhoei - Serow), pursuing young or weak individuals and ambushing animals by hiding near cliffs, and from ground nests. (J345.13.w4)
  • Feeding techniques must be learned by the cubs from the mother, whether as simple as turning over a rock to get ants from underneath, or as complex as climbing into a mulberry tree and out to the ends of branches containing berries, then gathering berry-laden branches with one hand, holding them with the other, embracing the bundle of branches, then dropping out of the tree hind legs first, pulling the branches down with the bear, before feeding. (B144)
  • Asiatic black bears spit out the shells of some nuts, such as large acorns. (V.w98)
  • Asiatic black bears gather fruit from trees. Gathering food is the major activity during the active period, in areas where these bears hibernate. (J178.100.w1)
  • A study in Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, India, in moist temperate forest, observed scavenging on a cattle kill as well as feeding on leaves and berries. It was noted that movements of the bears from higher to lower elevations during September to October "follows the acorn dispersal pattern" and that crop raiding increased at the time when the cops were close to harvest. (J345.14.w10)
  • Asiatic black bears will scavenge carcasses of their own species. A male bear was seen eating the carcass of a female which had been killed when the tree she denned under toppled during an ice storm. (J187.65.w1)
  • In Dachigam Sanctuary, Kashmir, bears climb into trees to feed, sometimes 10 m up or higher. Standing, sitting, squatting or lying on a horizontal branch or fork, they reach out with their forefeet and pull fruit-bearing twigs or branches inwards, then pluck off the fruit with their lips. Twigs may be simply hooked with the claws of one foot, while for large branches more effort is required. One large branch was pulled with both forepaws and the mouth to break it, after which each twig was bent to the face so Celtis berries could be plucked with the lips; for another large branch, the bear bit at the base of the branch then bent it inwards with a paw until it snapped. When walnuts fell to the ground when the branches were broken, the bear descended, ate the nuts, then climbed again to bend more branches. A bear was also seen taking acorns from the ground. It was confirmed by the presence of broken branches in practically all the walnut, oak and Celtis trees, that these species were used heavily by the bears. On one occasion a bear was seen standing in a Celtis tree fork, breaking several branches inwards then pushing and trampling these into the fork to form a crude platform, which was used for resting once the bear finished eating. (J178.66.w1)

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Authors & Referees


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


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

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