By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
A black bear recently pilfered a box from a Connecticut woman’s porch. The victim of the bizarre theft posted home surveillance video of the incident on Facebook. The eight species of bear vary greatly.
A Connecticut woman expecting a package from Amazon ended up with what has become an all-too-common sight: an empty porch. Shortly after the box was dropped off, she received an alert from her home security system, which detected movement in her driveway. She then checked her home surveillance video footage and saw that the theft of her package was anything but common. A black bear had found the box and decided it was interesting enough to take. The box, which contained several rolls of toilet paper, eventually lost the bear’s curiosity and wound up in a neighbor’s yard.
The furry porch pirate is one of very few species of bear. In his video series Zoology: Understanding the Animal World, Dr. Donald E. Moore III, Director of the Oregon Zoo and Senior Science Advisor at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, explained why they’ve become so different from one another.
From Pic-a-Nic Baskets to Jars of Hunny
“There are eight species of bear; they are adapted to a variety of habitats and diets, and their size shows it,” Dr. Moore said. “The American and Asian black bears, brown bears, and South American Andean bears are all omnivores that eat plants, fruits, and small animals or bird eggs.
“The polar bear evolved most recently from salmon-eating brown bears, and polar bears are seal specialists.”
The Asian sun bear is only about the size of a retriever and has adapted to eating forest fruits, while the Asian sloth bear has evolved a space in its mouth to eat insects by sucking them up like a vacuum cleaner. Finally, the giant panda is an herbivore that eats bamboo.
The Polar Bear Situation
“Among all these species, polar bears are the largest,” Dr. Moore said. “In fact, they are the largest terrestrial carnivores on the planet, but their size and strength has not protected them from habitat loss. Polar bears are currently classified as vulnerable, with fewer than 20,000 remaining in the wild, and declining relatively quickly.”
According to Dr. Moore, the loss of polar sea ice is to blame. Bears usually stalk their prey—seals—by finding and waiting near holes in the polar ice. Seals use these holes to come up for breath. When they do, the polar bears grab them and kill them for food.
“If the ocean is mostly water and very little ice, then the bears cannot predict the location of their prey, and they are forced onto land to seek other food sources, including larger, more dangerous animals like muskoxen and reindeer,” Dr. Moore said. “Individual polar bears are slowly adapting to the loss of ice, learning to hunt for crustaceans and geese, even eating grass and berries from time to time, but they need the high fat content of seals to truly survive and thrive.”