Syrian brown bear

Facts about Syrian brown bear

We found 11 facts about Syrian brown bear

The only known bear with white claws

The Syrian bear (Ursus arctos syriacus) is the smallest of the brown bears. It lives in the highlands of the Middle East, but its population is systematically decreasing. It has light coloring and white claws, which is unique among bears. He is especially close to Poles because it was the Syrian bear Wojtek who "fought" bravely at Monte Cassino together with Polish soldiers.

Syrian brown bear
The Syrian bear (Ursus arctos syriacus) is a subspecies of the brown bear.

The subspecies was first described in 1828 by two German scientists: zoologist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg and naturalist Friedrich Wilhelm Hemprich, giving it the name Ursus syriacus.

Historically, the brown bear ranged from Turkey to Turkmenistan in the Middle East.

It became extinct in Syria in the mid-20th century and was also exterminated in Jordan and Israel. Currently, it lives in the South Caucasus: in northern Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Abkhazia, as well as in the countries of the Middle East: Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

In Syria, bear tracks were recorded in the snow in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in 2004 - the first time this had happened in almost fifty years. In 2011, bear tracks were again recorded in this area. In 2017, a female with cubs was seen in Lebanon for the first time in 60 years.

Important habitats of this bear in Turkey are the forests of the Mediterranean belt, deciduous and coniferous forests in the Black Sea region and northeastern Turkey, and dry forests in Eastern Anatolia.

Their habitats range from 500 to 2700 m. In Iran, the bear occurs in the protected area of the Alborz mountain range (northern Iran) and the Zagros Mountains. In these regions, it occurs at higher altitudes.

The Syrian bear is the smallest subspecies of the brown bear.

An adult animal weighs up to 250 kg and has a body length of approximately 101-140 cm (from nose to tail).

The fur of the Syrian bear is usually light brown, straw-colored.

The hair at the withers is longer, with a grey-brown base, and is often a different shade than the rest of the body, which in some individuals is visible as a dark stripe down the back. Brighter colors usually appear in individuals living at higher altitudes. Their legs are usually darker than the rest of the body.

It is the only known bear in the world to have white claws.

In the wild, these animals live for about 20-25 years.

The Syrian bear is threatened mainly by habitat loss.

This is usually related to the development of agriculture, where bears come into conflict with humans (attacks on farm animals, destruction of beehives, destruction of crops), as well as forest degradation. They are also threatened by poaching and trade in bear body parts, which are used in traditional medicine. Residents of the Black Sea region illegally hunt Syrian bears to obtain bear fat, which is said to have medicinal value. Bears are also sometimes killed during wild boar hunting with dogs, as well as by poisoned baits and snares set illegally for deer, roe deer, wolves, and lynxes.

In 2018, a Syrian sleeping bear was killed by Iraqi forces on the Iraq-Syria border.

These bears are protected under the CITES Animal Trade Convention (Washington Convention).

The number of Syrian bears is decreasing and may be at risk of extinction in the wild (one of the categories determining the state of threat of extinction of species).

It is omnivorous.

It eats fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, grass, maggots, and small mammals. It also eats crops and domestic animals in mountain villages, hence its conflict with humans.

The Syrian bear is also present in culture.

It has been mentioned several times in the Bible as a symbol of a mother's care for her young.

The most famous Syrian bear was Wojtek the bear, adopted by Polish soldiers during World War II.

Wojtek took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino. He was the mascot of soldiers, whom he bravely helped by carrying artillery loads. Initially, he received the rank of private, but later he was promoted to corporal. He went through the entire battle route with the soldiers, received pay, and even had to report. After the war, he was sent to the Edinburgh Zoo, where he died in 1963.

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