European Brown Bear
Ursus arctos arctos
Brown bears are powerfully built with short, thick limbs, a big, heavily built body and a distinct shoulder hump, which is due to the large muscles needed for digging up roots and tubers. Their long straight claws are specially adapted for digging and can measure up to 10cm.
Most widely distributed bear. Historically, they were once native to much of Asia, northern Africa, Europe and North America, however today, numbers have become greatly reduced, even becoming extinct in some areas.
Occupy a huge range of habitat types, from temperate rainforests, arctic scrublands, and coastal areas to even dry desert edges. This is thought to enable them to exploit a wide variety of food items seasonally.
Extremely varied omnivorous diet (meat and vegetation) which changes drastically through the seasons. Up to 75% of diet is made up of plant material (such as fruit, nuts, and acorns). Their daily calorific intake during summer and autumn can reach up to 20,000 calories in order to put enough weight on to safely see them through their winter hibernation.
Undergo a winter hibernation, relying on fat reserves that they have built up over the summer period in order to see them through the winter months. Hibernation dens are usually caves, tree roots, and hollow logs. Mostly solitary, but will gather in large numbers at important food sources, therefore there is a social hierarchy based on age and size (adult male bears being at the top). Females raise cubs on their own, having given birth during the winter hibernation period.
Bears have a long history in the UK, however evidence of them in the fossil record stops around the end of the medieval period (1066 onwards). After this, bear remains are only found in London probably due to bear baiting arenas.
Historically, bears have been used for entertainment purposes (bear baiting, bear dancing) and this does still occur throughout the world. Bears are opportunistic feeders and are attracted to high human density areas to take advantage of our food sources; this leads to direct conflict. Poaching (for gall bladders and paws) and canned hunting are big problems for most European brown bears. Habitat loss, persecution and accidental mortality are all threats for the European populations of brown bears that are expected to increase in the future.
We are home to two bears called Fluff and Scruff. They arrived with us in November 2014 after being rescued from a shocking life in Bulgaria. Fluff and Scruff were born at a brown bear breeding centre (their exact birth date is unknown), bred to be hunted. They lived their entire lives there, in barren, small, concrete pits until the centre was abandoned. They were severely underweight, and showing signs of serious stress, anxiety and psychological trauma. Their rescue was possible due to Wildwood’s fantastic supporters who helped us raise £50,000 to bring the two boys to the park. Here they live in a spacious woodland home, with inside denning areas. Our aim is to give them the most natural life possible, and a chance to express natural behaviours. For the first time in their lives, Fluff and Scruff entered torpor (a form of semi hibernation) in 2015, a crucial natural behaviour that they had never had the opportunity to undergo before.
Did you know?
- Fluff is the bigger bear out of the two and the most dominant. Scruff doesn’t sleep as deeply as Fluff and during their torpor period, takes advantage of Fluff’s doziness by readily instigating the wrestling!
- Brown Bears can pack on a massive 180kg of fat during the autumn in order to get them through the winter.
- Male Brown bears can be at least 30% larger than females.