If you’ve ever watched a nature documentary, you might know that bears are usually classified as carnivorous mammals. They eat meat, not plants! Right? Well, it turns out that things aren’t always so black and white when it comes to the dietary habits of different animals. You see, there are some species of bear that have proven to be rather herbivorous in their eating habits. So then, is a bear a herbivore? Let’s take a closer look at the diets of these fascinating creatures to find out.
Is A Bear A Herbivore?
Bears are classified as carnivores, which means that they eat meat. In the wild, bears mostly eat plants (called ‘folivores’), such as berries, roots, and grasses. However, animals that live in the ocean are classified as herbivores, because they eat plants. Humans also eat both plants and meat. So it is more accurate to put bears in a category called ‘omnivores’, which means that they can eat both plants and animals.
Why Are Bears Omnivorous?
They need the protein from meat to build muscle
Bears use the protein from their meaty diet to build muscle, which helps them to defend themselves, their young, and their territory. Bears that are omnivorous are typically larger and stronger than bears that are carnivorous. In the wild, this extra muscle helps bears to climb trees and catch fish, climb mountains, dig up roots and tubers, and even break into cars and houses. In zoos, the size of the bears is often limited by their food source — so if they’re fed a diet that’s primarily meat, they can become much larger than bears that are fed a diet that’s primarily plant-based.
Plants are their primary source of food (and calories)
Most bears’ bodies don’t have the ability to digest meat and fat, which means that they can’t consume other carnivorous animals — or even raw meat. This is because bears lack the enzyme needed to break down protein. Instead, bears’ digestive systems are well-adapted for digesting greens, berries, nuts, and other plant matter. These foods are typically rich in fiber, carbohydrates, and other essential vitamins and minerals that bears need to survive. Some bears live in areas where there’s very little plant matter available, so they may supplement their diet with small rodents or other animals that they can catch. But in most cases, bears that live in the wild will eat primarily plants.
Bears can’t eat only meat without getting sick
Bears that are only fed meat are likely to get sick or even die. This is because meat-based diets are low in fiber, which is something that bears (and humans) need to stay healthy. This lack of fiber can lead to digestive problems, irregular bowel movements, and even constipation — which can cause intestinal blockages and even death. In the wild, it’s rare for any species to only eat meat, as this is usually only a last resort when there isn’t enough plant matter available to eat. Instead, other animals typically eat a balanced diet that includes both plants and meat — which is why bears are omnivorous.
Omnivorous bears have longer lifespans
While carnivorous animals often have shorter lifespans than their omnivorous counterparts, this isn’t always the case. In the wild, bears can live up to 30 years, which is a long life span for an animal with a primarily meat-based diet. But when bears eat a more balanced diet that includes plants, their lifespans can actually increase by as much as 10 years. This is likely due to the fact that bears that are omnivorous have a lower risk of disease and other health complications compared to their carnivorous counterparts.
Bear scat is a great indication of what they’ve been eating
If you come across bear scat, it can tell you a lot about what the bears in the area have been eating. Bear scat typically contains plants (their primary source of food) as well as small stones that the bears have eaten. These stones help to neutralize the acidity in the bear’s digestive system caused by their meat-based diet — and have been found in the digestive systems of bears across the world. Bear scat that contains seeds, berries, and other remnants of plants can be a good indication of what kinds of plants are available in the area. This can be helpful information for hikers and campers that want to try to avoid human-bear interactions.
Which Type Of Bear Eats Plants?
- There are actually two types of bears that are primarily herbivorous. The first is the giant panda, which is the most famous plant-eating bear.
- The other is the spectacled bear, which is a rare species found only in certain areas of the Andes. Giant pandas have been known to survive almost entirely on bamboo shoots, roots, lichen, and the occasional small rodent.
- One famous giant panda was even fed apples, carrots, and honey by the scientists who were observing it. Pandas are perhaps the most famous herbivorous bears in the world. The spectacled bear isn’t quite as well known, but it’s still quite fascinating.
- It lives high in the Andes Mountains, where it survives almost entirely on grasses and small plants. These two species of bears are the only ones that are primarily herbivorous. However, there are a few other species of bear that will eat large amounts of plants as well as small amounts of animals.
How Much Does A Herbivorous Bear Eat?
- The amount of food that a herbivorous bear eats varies from species to species. Giant pandas, for example, eat almost 30 pounds of bamboo shoots per day. Spectacled bears, on the other hand, eat around 10 pounds of grass daily.
- One interesting fact is that bears’ diets aren’t constant. Instead, they actually vary depending on the season, what’s available, and even the age of the bear.
- Young bears, for example, have higher levels of protein in their diets than adults, which leads to them hunting for small animals more often. In general, though, herbivorous bears eat large amounts of plants and very small amounts of animals.
Which Bears Are Herbivores?
- As we’ve seen, only two species of bear are primarily herbivorous. However, there are also a few additional species that will eat a small number of plants. Other Herbivorous Bears
- Honey Bear: Least Concern – Sun Bear: Endangered – Sloth Bear: Vulnerable – Grizzly Bear: Least Concern
What Do Bears Eat?
- Bears eat a variety of different things, including grass, berries, fish, insects, small animals, and carrion. Giant pandas and spectacled bears are the only species of bears that are primarily herbivorous.
- All other species of bear are carnivorous. Bears don’t just eat one thing, though. They eat a variety of different foods depending on the season, what’s available, and even the age of the bear.
- In the very early spring, when there aren’t any plants for them to eat, bears will eat insects, larvae, and small animals. As spring moves into summer, bears eat more plants, such as berries and nuts. Finally, in autumn, bears eat mostly small animals and carrion.
If we look at the diet of the Giant Panda Bear, we can see that it’s a forest bear. Giant Panda Bears are black and white bears. Wild Giant Panda Bears have been seen only eating bamboo leaves, shoots, and roots, which means that Giant Panda Bears are primarily herbivores. However, Giant Panda Bears have been known to eat small insects and rodents too. This means that Giant Panda Bears are omnivores too. If we look at the diet of all bears, we can see that they are omnivores and eat a wide variety of both plants and animals. All bears are omnivores and they eat a wide variety of both plants and animals. This means that bears are herbivores and they get most of their nutrients from plants.