Saturday, September 15, 2007
– The solitary animal
BEARS (family Ursidae) are large mammals in the order Carnivora. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closet living relatives.
Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere.
Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, paws with five nonretractile claws and a short tail. While the polar bear is mostly carnivorous and the giant panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo, the remaining six species are omnivorous, with largely varied diets including both plants and animals.
With the exceptions of courting individuals and mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals. They are sometimes diurnal, but are usually active during the night (nocturnal) or twilight (crepuscular). Bears are aided by an excellent sense of smell, and despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they can ran quickly and be adept climbers and swimmers. Bears use shelters such as caves and burrows as their dens, which are occupied by most species during the winter for a long period of sleep similar to hibernation.
Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. To this day, they play a prominent role in arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies. In modern times, bears have been exploited through the encroachment of their habitats and the illegal trade of bears and bear parts.
Bears have large bodies and powerful limbs. They are capable of standing up on their hind legs. They have broad paws, long snouts, and round ears. Their teeth are bared for defence and used as tools, depending on the diet of the bear. Their claws are used for ripping, digging and catching.
Polar bears are the longest type, and in fact one of the largest extant carnivores, though brown bears are the heaviest. Sun bears are the smallest, only the size of a large dog.
Bears live in a variety of habitats from the tropics to the Artic and from forests to snowfields. They are mainly omnivorous, although some have more specialized diet, such as polar bears which mainly consume fish and marine mammalian. They eat lichens, roots, nuts, and berries. They can also go to a river or other body of water to capture fish. Bears will commonly travel far for food. Hunting times are usually in the dusk or the dawn except when humans are nearby.
Some of the larger species, such as the polar bear and the grizzly bear, are dangerous to humans, especially in areas where they have become used to people. For the most part, bears are shy and are easily frightened of humans. They will, however, defend their cubs ferociously if a situation calls for it.
The bear’s courtship period is very brief. Bears reproduce seasonally, usually after a period of inactivity similar to hibernation. Cubs are born toothless, blind, and bald. The cubs of brown bears, usually born in litters of 1-3, will typically stay with the mother for two full seasons. They feed on their mother’s milk through the duration of their relationship with their mother, although as the cubs continue to grow, nursing becomes less frequent and learn to begin hunting with the mother. They will remain with the mother for approximately three years, until she enters the next cycle of estrus and drives the cubs off. Bears will reach sexual maturity in five to seven years. Bears are generally solitary creatures and will not stay close together for long periods of time. Exceptions have been regularly observed; siblings recently on their own and sub-adult bears of similar age and status will spend a significant amount of time in informal social groups.
Bears as food and medicine
Many people enjoy hunting bears and eating them, their meat is dark and stringy, like a tough cut of beef. The peoples of China, Japan, and Korea use bears’ body parts and secretions (notable their gallbladders and bile) as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
Figures of speech
The physical attributes and behaviors of bears are commonly used in figures of speech In English. In the stock market, a bear market is a period of declining prices. Pessimistic forecasting or negative activity is said to be bearish (due to the stereotypical posture of bears looking downwards), and one who expresses bearish sentiment is a bear. Its opposite is a bull market, and bullish sentiment from bulls. To “try like a bear means to try your hardest to catch the attention of a certain lady. The harder you try, the better the bear you are. A bear hug is typically a tight hug that involves wrapping one’s arms around another person, often leaving that person’s arms immobile.
Around the world many children have stuffed animals in the form of bears.
The Mirror - Saturday, September 15, 2007 Page: 37