Himalayan or Asian Black Bear

Himalayan or Asian Black Bear (lat Selenarctos thibetanus) ranges from Pakistan through Nepal and Sikkim to Bhutan and into China, Southeast Asia and the Amur region of Russia. The Amur region subspecies (lat Selenarctos thibetanus Ussuricus) are the largest species of the bear. Like the tiger, unfortunately the Himalayan bears (and their Eurasian brown bear cousins) are poached illegally primarily for their bile, which is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Population decline Up to 60% has been registered in some areas in the past several years.

They are inhabitants of steep forested hills of the Ussuri taiga but they may range up to the tree line during summer. Their size is smaller than brown bear – body length is about 130-190cm, weight of the males – 100 - 200kg. Females are smaller - about 80 -125 kg. Himalayan black bears usually include a distinct white patch on their chest that is often crescent-shaped. The fur around the shoulders and throat is particularly long, and their ears are relatively large and rounded.

They easily climb trees in order to forage. They may use rest platforms in trees made of branches broken while feeding. The Himalayan Black bear is omnivorous, but requires relatively nutrient rich food sources. The diet varies with season consisting of grasses, buds and blossoms, acorns, other wild fruits and berries, crops, insects and meat.

Durminskoye reserve includes anywhere from 20 to 40 black bears depending on the crops of acorn of the Mongolian oak and nuts of the Korean pine that they feed on in the fall season. Himalayan bears coexist with tigers and they skillfully avoid encounters through safety in the trees, though still some bears are killed by the tigers occasionally.

The best season to watch Himalayan bears in the wild is the end of July and first half of August, when they climb on the trees to feed on bird berries and arrange platforms of broken branches on the trees. Some platforms are virtually visible from our cabins at the base and viewing the bears is almost guaranteed this time of year.

There is also a scientific project at our base involving orphaned cubs are taken care of with the purpose to return them back to wild. The project started 2 years ago and proved to be successful with 3 Himalayan bears raised and returned to taiga. Now the reserve is an official asylum for the bear orphan cubs. In spring of 2012, 5 more bear cubs were brought to the reserve under the project.

It's possible to see the cubs and the visiting scientists on this project between early spring till late autumn. They will tell you about the project and their methods, they will show video and you can watch the bear cubs from afar or from the houses on the trees.