How To Identify Male & Female Bears

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Eight species of bears exist throughout the world. They may differ in shape and color but, generally speaking, bears have stocky legs, thick and shaggy fur, and narrow snouts. Identifying male and female bears is not always simple. The differences between genders come down to size. Other little differences between male bears and female bears vary among species.

Brown Bears

In North America, brown bears are among the most common types of bears. Adult males generally weigh from 300 to 860 pounds, while females weigh about 200 to 455 pounds. The largest brown bears are found in British Columbia and Alaska, where male bears weigh 660 pounds or more and females more than 440 pounds. Female bears may be accompanied by cubs; male bears travel alone.

Polar Bears

Male polar bears weigh between 770 and 1,500 pounds. Female polar bears tip the scales at about half that weight: 330 pounds to 720 pounds. Likewise, male polar bear cubs are larger than female polar bear cubs. Fur color is another distinguishing characteristic between genders. Mature male polar bears turn yellow as they age. Females can be silvery-white to light yellow. Male polar bears are more prone to fighting with other bears. This aggression stems from competition over female bears.

Black Bears

Black bears are relatively smaller than other bear species, but like others, females are smaller than males. Male black bears weigh an average of 300 pounds, while females weigh about 170 pounds. Like other bears, male black bears compete fiercely with other bears to mate with females, and their brawls can lead to extensive scarring on the heads and necks of older male black bears.

Giant Pandas

Giant pandas live primarily in central China and in zoos around the world. Males weigh up to 250 pounds in the wild, while females generally weigh less than 220 pounds. Cubs can stay with their mothers for up to three years, so female pandas are generally identified by their proximity to cubs. Male and female wild pandas spend most of their time resting, feeding, and seeking food. Unlike other bears, giant pandas do not hibernate.

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Alicia Gallegos is a journalist in northwestern Indiana. She previously wrote for the "American Medical News, "a Chicago-based health newspaper published by the American Medical Association. She began her career at the South Bend Tribune, where she covered public safety, courts, food safety, education and health care.