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What Is a Sloth Bear?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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The sloth bear is a type of bear native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Butan, and Nepal. They can weigh from 120 to 310 pounds (54 to 141 kilos) and are usually five to six feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) tall. The sloth bear is an omnivore, eating insects, fruit, and carrion. They are typically black, with short, pale hair on their snouts, long, hook-like claws, and a white chevron shape on their chests. The sloth bear is usually most active at night, and they usually don't need or prefer the company of other sloth bears.

This species of bear can usually be found in forests and plains areas. They typically live individually, and will have a home range of about 3,212 acres (13 square kilometers). When they feel threatened, these bears will lift themselves onto their hind legs.

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These bears are classified as a threatened species because they are often hunted, or captured and made to perform for human entertainment. The sloth bear can sometimes be aggressive to people and will sometimes damage human crops, making them a target for hunters. They have also been hunted for their gall bladders, considered valuable to folk medicine practices of the region. They are usually nocturnal, though they have been observed to be more active in daylight hours in areas where they are kept safe from human interference. These bears are often very loud in their activities, especially when they use their lips to suck termites, ants, and other insects from their underground nests.

Mating season for the sloth bear usually occurs in late spring and early to mid-summer. The female sloth bear will carry her young for five or six months. She will normally birth two cubs per litter, usually in her den beneath the ground. These cubs remain with their mother for two to three years. Sometimes sloth bear cubs will ride about on their mothers' backs, a behavior that's been observed in no other bear species.

The majority of a sloth bear's diet consists of termites, ants and other insects, but they also like fresh fruit. Ebony fruit, mangoes and figs are among the sloth bear's favorite fruits to eat. They have also been observed climbing trees and knocking down the nests of honey bees, so that they can eat the honey comb.

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