Syrian Brown Bear

Brown bears as a group are one of the largest type of bears, second only to polar bears with the Syrian brown bear (Ursus arctos syriacus) being one of the smallest subspecies of brown bears.  Found generally in the mountainous areas in the countries of Iran, Iraq and Turkey and in parts of the former Soviet Union to include Abkhazia, Karabakh, Transcaucasia, Talysh and northern Armenia.

These bears find hollow birch trees that flourish in the higher elevations, moreso than pine and other trees, along with caves to serve as den and hibernation
spots. When not in a hibernation state, food is found by forging in the forests, grasslands, and meadows.  There are some instances that the bears will enter mountain villages to search for food.

Usually the fur is a very light brown straw color.  The longer hair on the withers is often a different shade with a gray-brown base and on some bears may appear as a dark stripe along the back. The skull of an adult male could measure an approximate 12-15in. There is a group of bears larger in size and darker in color that some experts believe are hybrid populations of Eurasian and Syrian bears.  During the Holocene Syrian bears migrated north and populated with the larger Northern bears.  These hybrids have a skull size measuring an approximate 14½-15½in and have reddish brown fur with no shades of black and brown.

Due to habitat loss and poaching, the Syrian brown bear population is on a continual decline.  Already extinct in Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, these bears are most recently gone from Syria.  Not only are bears a target for big game hunting, the bear’s bile (ursodeoxycholic acid) is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for rheumatism, gall stones and poor eyesight and is considered a valuable material.