Syrian Brown Bear, Ursus arctos syriacus

The Syrian brown bear (Ursus arctos syriacus) is a native species to Eurasia. It is a slightly small species of brown bear. Its range includes Northern Armenia, Kopet Dag, Abkhazia, Azerbaijan Talysh, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Its range also includes the former Soviet Union. This bear is extinct in Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and in more recent years it has become extinct in Syria. Due to habitat loss and poaching, the Syrian brown bear population is declining. The bear is also hunted for its bile, which is used for traditional Chinese medical practices. It is thought to cure poor eyesight, gall stones, and Rheumatism.

The Syrian brown bear is considered a small subspecies, although brown bears in general are noted to be the second largest bear next to polar bears. The average length of a Syrian brown bear’s skull can be up to fifteen inches. The fur of this brown bear is a very light tawny color, while the fur on the shoulders has a darker grey base. On some bears, there is a dark stripe running down the back. Bears from the middle and Western Caucasus are larger in size, and their fur is darker than bears found elsewhere. This range overlaps that of the Eurasian brown bear, and leads some naturalists to think that these darker bears are a hybrid between the two. Skull sizes from this population of bears, whose fur is redder in color, can reach lengths of up to 15 inches.

Syrian brown bears prefer to live in mountainous regions, and will live in caves and tree hollows of the birch forests. These bears will eat grains and nuts from villages, and will forage through meadows, grasslands, and forests for food. One Syrian brown bear from Iran, named Wojtek, was noted for his participation in battle by carrying ammo for the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. He was raised and even enlisted into it.

Image Caption: Syrian Brown Bear, Ursus arctos syriacus. Credit: Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)