Bears Bears occupy a diversity of habitats, but human encroachment has squeezed them primarily into mountain, forest, and arctic wildernesses. The animals occur on all continents except Africa, Antarctica, and Australia. (Crowther’s bear of North Africa’s Atlas Mountains is believed to be extinct.) The Arctic coast areas of northern countries are the home of the polar bear, the only marine bear. It is also known as the ice bear in some languages because of its preference for sea ice for hunting; the bottoms of its paws are furred for traction. Brown bears have been successful in the plains and forests of the North Temperate Zone. Their range is dangerously reduced in the lower United States, but they are surviving and hunted in Alaska and western Canada.

Variants include the largest bear, the Kodiak of Alaska, which weighs up to 780 kg (1700 lb) and is as much as 3 m (10 ft) long. The closely related grizzly is named for its white-tipped fur. Remnant populations of European brown bears live in scattered mountain regions. The North American black bear varies in color from pure white (Kermode’s bear of the coast of British Columbia) to the pure black, bluish, blonde, and reddish-brown (cinnamon) color phases found in western North America. The Asian black bear, also known as the moon bear, is found in mountain ranges of Southeast Asia.

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It has a black, shaggy coat and a pronounced white V on its chest. The upper lip is usually white. The sun bear, found from China to Indochina, has a short black coat with an irregular white or yellow mark on the chest, and a light muzzle. Like all but the largest bears, it is a tree climber. Ranging through the tropical forests of India and Sri Lanka is the sloth bear, named for its usually slow movements.

The bear has a long snout and mobile lips, which are used to suck up termites. The long, shaggy black coat commonly has a white mark on the chest. The spectacled bear of the Andes, extending into Ecuador, is named for the yellow facial markings on its shaggy black coat. The muzzle, throat, and chest are usually cream colored.