Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What is a Sloth Bear?

Despite its confusing name, the sloth bear is not a sloth. A member of the bear family, this animal gets its name from its long and thick claws, and the fact that it lacks upper middle incisor teeth, both sloth-like traits.
Sloth bears have a total body length of 5-6 feet and weigh 120-310lbs, with males being slightly larger than females. They can be identified by their shaggy brown coats, white muzzles, and a splash of white fur on their chests in the shape of a “Y”, “O”, or “U”. Sloth bears are native to India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Nepal; their range has shrunk considerably in recent decades due to habitat loss.

Sloth bears are primarily solitary and nocturnal. They spend their nights feeding on termites and ants, using their massive claws to rip apart nest mounds or rotting logs, then sucking the insects into their mouths between the gaps in their front teeth. This whole process is very noisy, and the slurping can be heard over 300 feet away! In addition to insects, sloth bears are known for climbing trees to eat honeycomb as well as a variety of fruits and flowers.

Despite their preferred diet of bugs, sloth bears have a reputation for being aggressive animals and are still illegally hunted in India. Although altercations between sloth bears and humans have occurred, these animals are usually not a threat unless confronted, and their noisy habits make them quite easy to steer clear of.

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