The moon bear, (urus thibetanus) is also known as the Asian Black Bear, or the white chested bear. They are four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half feet long (1.4-1.7 m) nose to tail. The Males generally weigh 220-440 pounds (99-199 kg) and the females weigh generally 110-275 pounds (50-125 kg). These bears have a thick black and have a characteristic white or cream-colored V-shaped crescent across their chest and can have white fur under their chin and lower lip. They have a mane of long hair about six inches long around their face. Their ears are larger than other bear species. Moon bears have also been classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN.
Moon Bear Habitat
Moon bears – or Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) – are found in mountainous and heavily forested areas across the Asian continent. Mainly South East Asia which includes Pakistan and Afghanistan, extending across northern India Japan, Taiwan, Korea, south east Russia and China. Majority of moon bears are found in China in the north-eastern and south-western provinces – which are also the main bear farming areas. They are also found in Himalaya mountain ranges.
Asiatic black bears are known to inhabit tropical, subtropical, temperate broadleaved & conifer forests. Altitudinal range of Asiatic black bears may extend up to 4300 m and on rare occasions they may venture into alpine meadows, ahead of the tree line. Individual bears, however, are known to change their habitats and altitude seasonally (Izumiyama and Shiraishi 2004; Yiqing and Xiaomin 1998; Sathyakumar 1998, 2001; Hazumi 1998; Garshelis and Steinmetz 2008)
In India, the moon bears are found in Jammu and Kashmir (except Ladakh), Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and other north-eastern states and in the foothills and hills of West Bengal (Sathyakumar 1998). The moon bear has been recorded from 83 Protected Areas in India and the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary (Darjeeling District, West Bengal) is one of them. However, information on their status from the sanctuary is patchy.
Over the years different range countries have proposed tentative estimates on population and density for Asiatic black bears. For India, the tentative population estimate for the species is 7000-9000 individuals (Sathyakumar 2006; Garshelis and Steinmetz 2008) and the tentative density estimate, only for Dachigam, is about 1.3 to 1.8 bear/km² (Sathyakumar 1998). However, Asiatic black bears face considerable stress in the wild from constant loss of habitat and also from regular poaching to fulfil the demand for its body parts for use in traditional medicinal practices (Mills and Servheen 1994; Yiqing and Xiaomin 1998; Sathyakumar 1998; Shepherd 2006). Considering this, it may be assumed that the population and density estimates proposed for different countries need a proper review (Garshelis and Steinmetz 2008)
Three subspecies of moon bears occur in China: the Tibet subspecies (U. thibetanus thibetanus), the Si Chuan subspecies (U. thibetanus mupinensis), and the northeast subspecies (U. thibetanus ussuricus), which is the only subspecies of bear in north eastern China. Asiatic black bears are mainly spread in the conifer forests in the cold and temperate zones of northeast China, the important areas being Chang Bai, Zhang Guangcai, Lao Ye, & the Lesser Xingan Mountains. Within Liaoning atate, there are about hundred black bears, which only inhabit the five counties of Xin Bin, Huan Ren, Ben Xi, Kuan Dian, and Fen Cheng. Within Jilin province, black bears occur mainly in the counties of Hu Chu, Dun Hua, Wan Quing, An Tu, Chang Bai, Fu Song, Jiao He, Hua Dian, Pan Shi, and Shu Lan. In Heilongjiang province, Asiatic black bears in the counties of BaYan , Tong He, Ning An, Wu Chag, Bao Qing, Fu Yaun, Yin Chun, Tao Shan, Lan Sun Wu, Ai Hui, De Du, Xiang Tie Li and Nen Jiang. This population has a northern boundary of about 50° N and the southern boundary in Feng Cheng is about 40°30″ N
In Russia, the black bear’s northern range runs from Innokenti Bay on the coast of the Sea of Japan southwest to the elevated areas of Sikhote Alin crossing it at the sources of the Samarga River. at this time, the boundary directs itself to the north, through the middle course of the Khor, Anyui and Khungari rivers, and comes to the shore of the Amur, crossing the it at the level of the mouth of the Gorin. Along the Amur river, the species’ presence has been noted as far as 51° N. Lat. From there, the territorial boundary runs southwest of the river’s left bank, passing through the northern part of Lake Bolon and the juncture point of the Kur and Tunguska. Black bears are encountered in the Urmi’s lower course. Within the Ussuri krai, the class is restricted to broad leaved Manchurian type forests.