Biology of the brown bear


Body length 170-220 cm, weight 100-340 kg, coat colour from light brown to almost black. Young animals wear a light collar. Dentition with powerful canines, but unlike other carnivores, the molars have broad, flat crowns as an adaptation to the mainly vegetable diet. Stocky legs, the feet bear 5 claws which cannot be retracted into sheaths as in cats. The bear is a sole walker; it also climbs and swims well.

Originally, brown bears inhabited almost all of Europe, as well as North America and northern and central Asia. Today, we still find remnants of the brown bear in Europe in the Pyrenees and the Abruzzi, in the Austrian-Slovenian Alps and in the Balkans. Larger populations still live in the Carpathians, Scandinavia and western Russia.


In our latitudes, the bear lives mainly in the forest up to the timberline. Without human influence, the Swiss Plateau would have been dominated by mixed beech forest for over 3000 years. In its clearings and edges, where a rich herb layer with berry bushes develops and oak asserts itself next to the dominant beech, the bear collects beech nuts, acorns and berries.

Daily and seasonal activity rhythm

The brown bear is diurnal and nocturnal, mainly nocturnal depending on the threat situation and disturbances. As an adaptation to the winter food shortage (mainly herbivores), the brown bear hibernates between October and March in our latitudes. The hibernation is triggered by a lack of food, shorter daylight hours and cold temperatures. In human care, brown bears only go into hibernation if they can eat the necessary fat reserves in late summer and autumn thanks to intensive feeding. Another condition is a sufficiently large and structured enclosure with winter dens.


The brown bear is a typical omnivore, but mainly a vegetarian: it eats berries, roots, fruits, buds, seeds and grass. Besides that, it feeds on insects and their larvae, and it loves honey from wild bees. Occasionally it can strike prey, now and then it attacks unprotected grazing animals such as sheep and cattle, and it does not disdain the carcasses of fallen game either.

Reproduction, social life

Outside the breeding season (mating May-June), brown bears live solitary lives in fixed but not exclusively used haunts. After a gestation period of 7-8 months, the female bear gives birth to 2-3 cubs of about 300 grams each in a den she has dug herself. The cubs are blind at birth, open their eyes only after about 4 weeks and are suckled for 4 months. The female bear leads her cubs for two to three years; during this time she strictly avoids males. From the mother, the cubs learn all the skills necessary for survival. After this time, the cubs roam around until sexual maturity. At the age of 3-4 years they become sexually mature. A female can give birth up to 10 times. The brown bear can live 30 years in care.

More Topics

Our bears in the BearPark
Bern and bears
Getting to the BearPark
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