A rare bear - the golden Brown Bear of the Gobi Desert
February 8, 2017 10:35 AM   Subscribe

At a global glance, the awe-inspiring brown bear is the most widely distributed bear in the world. Of the eight bear species*, only the brown bear and American black bear are listed as of least concern. But some of the brown bear sub-species are critically endangered, including the rare Gobi bear (Ursus arctos gobiensis), one of the few larger animals to call the extreme desert its home, where they have adapted to be shaggier and smaller than their North American relatives in order to survive a far harsher climate (YouTube / National Geographic).

* discounting Ursid hybrids

Two more notes: first, Living on Earth interviewed writer and wildlife biologist Douglas Chadwick about his time studying the Gobi bears (audio + transcript) with others in Mongolia who are trying to sustain the wild bear population, and Douglas notes that the population, though still small, is "on the upswing." Second, while the Gobi bears are sometimes called Gobi Grizzlies, as in the Living on Earth interview and in Douglas' book, the name "grizzly bear" commonly refers to the specific, much larger golden or silvertip North American brown bear, as is the preferred common name by scientists.

Bonus bear: a possible relative of the Gobi bear is the Tibetan (blue) bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus)), of which there is little clear information, due to a similarly remote and extreme habitat. While Wikipedia currently claims this bear "is known in the west only through a small number of fur and bone samples," there appear to be (or have been) two "Tibetan brown bears" in Animals Asia's China Bear Sanctuary in Chengdu, China, though the bear in that video doesn't resemble the one recorded for BBC's Animal Planet. This footage was in the wild, with a Tibetan fox in tow, as the two hunted for Pika. For a few still images of what appears to be a Tibetan blue bear and a story of an encounter, here's a blog post on a bike expedition in Northern Tibet.
posted by filthy light thief (12 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
At a global glance, the awe-inspiring brown bear is the most widely distributed bear in the world.

One unfortunate historical artifact of the bear industry is that a few large bear companies mostly own the distribution networks, making it difficult for smaller, up-and-coming bear makers to elbow their way into the bear trucks alongside the rows of InBear products. That's why I try to support local craft bear as much as possible.
posted by invitapriore at 11:12 AM on February 8, 2017 [13 favorites]

I find it remarkable that a carnivore as large as a brown bear survives on the Tibetan plateau. I'm sure that they are as clever about digging out a variety of foods as North American brown bears, but the requirements of hibernation are so enormous. How on earth do they find the calories?
posted by tavella at 11:39 AM on February 8, 2017

There are between two dozen to maybe 50 bears in a very large region, plus they're physically smaller, and rely more on their hair for insulation than fat (though they do apparently gorge on insects in the summer, as best they can).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bears are my favorite predator species. Even their name is awesome. Wouldn't want to be near one, though. Nope. No Alaska hikes for me. : )
posted by Beholder at 12:25 PM on February 8, 2017


here for bonus bears
posted by zdravo at 12:29 PM on February 8, 2017

plus they're physically smaller

A whole lot smaller, as a matter of fact. The males are just 200-300lbs, and the females are 100-200lbs. They're pretty much people-sized. Grizzlies can be easily three to five times bigger.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:58 PM on February 8, 2017

At first glance, I thought this post referred to "beer," not "bear." As in the "golden Brown Beer of the Gobi Desert." I realize that post would not be as interesting, but I am suddenly thirsty, nonetheless.
posted by touchstone033 at 2:10 PM on February 8, 2017

(I clicked on this thread for the Betsy DeVos jokes.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:34 PM on February 8, 2017

Brown and black bears of least concern my ass. They are very, very concerning. Especially the ones that smell like pepper spray and jingle slightly.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:01 PM on February 8, 2017

here for bonus bears

I have a beard and live near Boystown. I need bear spray.
posted by srboisvert at 4:10 PM on February 8, 2017

Not much bear there - YouTube / National Geographic
posted by unliteral at 4:22 PM on February 8, 2017

Although the elusive bears remained invisible

That IS impressive.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:26 PM on February 10, 2017

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