What Colour is a Black Bear?

bear morph

Back in 2000 Sy Montgomery, with input and help from evolutionary biologist Dr. Gary Galbreath, started working on and subsequently released the book "Search for the Golden Moon Bear:

Science and Adventure in Pursuit of a New Species" a tale of an adventurous search for a mythical new bear species in Asia.

Galbreath, in his own right, had noted the possible existance of a morph and later by DNA analysis that the mythical bears were in fact colour morphs of the Asiatic Black Bear. He concluded "The principal color phase is black......... Rare brown phases are also known, and recently a blond (and mixed blond and black) color phase was discovered in Cambodia, Thailand, and Lao PDR" (Galbreath et al. 2000). Sadly, all of the bears Montgomery and Galbreath found and sampled were already captive either in sanctuaries, caged in zoos, or privately "owned". Sy Montgomery never locates one in the wild during the book research. Understandable really.

Asiatic Black Bear - Colour Morph from Wildlife Thailand on Vimeo.


Rare footage of a colour morph of an asiatic black bear.


I enjoyed the book greatly, although its now marketed as a K12 book it is a great read and in no way a children's book. Its an example of how conservation awareness can be successfuly promoted through media. And lets hope, her work has the power to inspire some K12s who will make a difference. As we pass the batons of hope and action to future generations.

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onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #1212 09 Aug 2013 00:42
Cool, never heard about this. It's almost like a Panda, haha. Amazing!

I haven't seen that many Asiatic Black Bears. But was very lucky to see one again just last week. And to answer your question: It was black...
A huge individual, BTW. Resting 20 - 30 meters high in a tree (just about 100m from where I have seen the sun bear I've posted not too long ago...). It was posing well, but sadly with terrible backlight and due to long distance (and my lack of guts to get much closer...) not exactly a great photo opportunity, but anyway a fantastic sighting. After watching it for 20 minutes or so, it decided to come down the large tree trunk. That was great to see. How easy they just climb up and down trees, amazing. This tree had quite a smooth trunk with little grip. But equiped with sharp claws the bear had no trouble with that at all.

Probably the animal I fear the most in these jungles.
Next time I'll wear one of those 'dog-bite-suits', haha, and go a bit closer...
Bagheera's Avatar
Bagheera replied the topic: #1214 10 Aug 2013 20:12
Lovely video, and fantastic to get a little family aswell!

What unusual colouration! Is this a gene mutation? as in similar to what occurs with 'black' leopards? Or perhaps just a simple colour variation within the species...?

@Onflipflops, man you see a lot of bears! Whats the secret!!??
onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #1218 10 Aug 2013 23:45

It's the magic mix of luck, mixed with a bit of luck, a LOT of hours, and a bucket full of luck! Boil it for a while, and then add just a sniff of luck and there you go. Everybody can do it!

Here it is, BTW. This is seriously cropped. High ISO, long distance, not exactly fantastic. Certainly can't beat the Sun Bear pic from last month, but anyway the best shot I have from this species...

"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.” > Robb Sagendorph


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