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There are a variety of bear threats, with six of the eight species of bears listed as endangered or vulnerable, and their numbers are in sharp decline. Bears are confronted with a wide variety of survival challenges, including habitat loss, climate change, and hunting.
Status of Feature Species
Decreasing habitat is a problem for all eight species of bears. Increasing areas of land for agriculture is a major problem for several species, including the Malayan sun bear, which is losing its territory for oil palm plantations.
Logging is also a major threat for giant pandas, sun bears, sloth bears, and Himalayan black bears. Other ways their habitat is being lost include roads, mining, human-caused fires, and tree plantations.
Bear parts including gall-bladders and bile are used in traditional Asian medicine, resulting in a large international trade, some of which is illegal under CITES – the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.
Some bears are hunted for food including polar bears. Bear paws are eaten in some Asian countries and sought after as trophies in other countries. Bear fur and skin is also used to make rugs.
Polar bears have become a poster species for how climate change is affecting wildlife behaviour; however, other species are also feeling the effects. Pine nuts, one of the primary foods for grizzlies in Yellowstone, have been affected by bark beetle infestations.
These beetles have moved north into grizzly territory as the climate changes. Scientists are now predicting that there will be no summer Arctic ice within 100 years. Polar bears require this ice to hunt and reach their dens.
Bear hunting is a legal and controlled activity in many places; however, some bear populations are threatened by this activity where there is little information on the animals or quotas to ensure a sustainable population.
As bears lose their habitats, the animals are forced into human settlements to look for food in places like trash dumps, garbage cans, and agricultural crops.
While these creatures are not normally aggressive, the more they interact with people, the higher the possibility of attacks on humans. When people are attacked, the offending bear is often shot and killed.