Is There Really an Animal Called a Bearcat?

By Lauren Corona

Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images

Colloquially known as bearcats, binturongs (Arctictis binturong) are related to neither bears nor cats. However, their catlike head and bearlike bodies have earned them this nickname. Factors such as deforestation, hunting, habitat degradation and collection for the pet trade have caused their numbers to drop by roughly 30 percent in the past 30 years. They're currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Physical Description

Binturongs measure between 24 and 38 inches long, excluding their tails, and weigh in at roughly 20 to 44 pounds, with females slightly larger than males. Their tails are prehensile and almost equal in length to their bodies. The long, dense fur that covers their bodies is predominantly black, sometimes with gray tips, but their faces have lighter fur and black whiskers. Their long claws help them to hold on to branches while climbing.

Habitat and Range

You can find binturongs in certain areas of southeast Asia, including Cambodia, China, India, Bhutan, Vietnam, Thailand and Nepal. As primarily arboreal creatures, they live in forests, but their exact habitat varies according to what kinds of environment are present in their geographical location. For instance, they're usually found in rain forests, but in Laos they live in evergreen forests and in the Philippines they live in lowland forests amongst grassland. While they spend much of their time in the trees, they have to climb down from one and up the next when they want to move from tree to tree, as they're not acrobatically skilled.

Mating and Reproduction

While there's no set breeding season for binturongs, who can mate anytime throughout the year, there's a marked increase in births between the months of January and March each year. Little is known about their mating rituals, but males and females utilize internal fertilization to reproduce. After mating, females can choose to delay fetal implantation to control the time of year at which they give birth. Once implantation has occurred, the gestation period is 91 days, after which females give birth to between one and six young.

Eat or Be Eaten

Although binturongs are technically carnivores -- belonging to the taxonomic order Carnivora -- they're opportunistic eaters and their diets consist mostly of fruits. However, they're also skilled hunters who will eat insects, small mammals, birds and fish. As a large, predatory species, they're mostly safe from predation. However, tigers and dholes will sometimes make them a meal. Despite not having many natural predators, they certainly smell tasty. These creatures have an extremely unusual odor: that of buttered popcorn.

Photo Credits

  • Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images

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