Known for being one of the top apex predators around the world, bears are beautiful and ferocious creatures. But how long do bears live, and what can you expect to learn about a bear’s lifespan, varying from species to species?
In this article, we will discuss how long these beautiful creatures live, what their life cycle is like regardless of their species, and how their lifespan might differ depending on the type of bear that they are. If you’re ready to learn all about bears, let’s get started.
How Long Do Bears Live?
Bears live an average of 10-20 years, depending on species. Some species live closer to 30 years of age! Given that bears are usually at the top of the food chain in whatever ecosystem they are in, bears have very few natural predators or threats.
Humankind is the most likely culprit when it comes to shortening a bear’s lifespan. A variety of issues affecting bears stem from humans, ranging from habitat loss, car accidents, and construction, to human conflict. Depending on the location and species, bears are hunted for their fur or for sport. However, some young bears die from starvation or falling out of trees as well.
No matter the species of bear, most go through a very similar life cycle. From polar bears to black bears, what is that cycle like? Read on to learn more!
The Average Bear Life Cycle
If you are curious about what it’s like to be born as a bear cub, let’s take a closer look at their life cycle and growth as bears age.
Depending on the species of bear, many cubs are born seasonally and at the same time. For example, black bears usually give birth in the wintertime, particularly in January. Grizzly bears are a bit different, giving birth in the early springtime. Some bears only give birth to one cub, While others will give birth to up to 5.
Most species of bears are born without fur and without the use of their eyes. They are entirely dependent on their mother for the first week of their life, feeding and sleeping in the comfort of their warm den. Given the cold environment in which they are born, polar bears are the exception to this rule, though their fur is still not fully developed upon birth.
Young Bear, or Cub
While most bear cubs will gain their senses and ability to walk within a few weeks of being born, they are still dependent on their mother for the first year of their lives. Many different species of bears stay with their mothers until they reach the age of 4 years old.
Baby bears grow rapidly during this time of their life. They are curious, playful, and constantly learning from their siblings and mother. Mother bears are extremely protective over their cubs, and you should avoid a baby bear should you see one. Chances are, their mother is close by!
Even after baby bears are fully grown, they remain close to their mother. Even when a mother black bear chases away her young to establish some independence for them, she still protects them and their mutual territory from other bear families.
Once a bear is fully grown, it is a solitary and independent individual. Female bears will mate and take care of their young, while male bears live completely alone unless it is mating season. This is largely due to the fact that they are extremely territorial, even with their own young.
Most bears reach sexual maturity between the ages of three and five, but most species are not adult age until they are at least seven to 10 years old. However, once baby bears earn their independence from their mother, they are adult age, whether biology says so or not.
Given the wide range of bear species around the world, let’s take a moment to discuss the lifespans of different species of bears. Let’s also talk about the lifespan difference between wild bears and captive bears.
Lifespans of Different Species of Bears
There are many different species of bears found throughout the world, in varying climates and locations. Here are some of the more popular species of bears, and what their lifespan is like.
- Black Bear: Found around the world in many different forested environments, black bears live an average of 15 to 20 years in the wild. Some black bears have even lived over 30 years in captivity.
- Brown Bear/Grizzly Bear: Depending on the region, you may have heard of either brown bears or grizzly bears. They are the same type of bear and have the same lifespan. They live an average 20 to 30 years in the wild, while some captive brown bears have lived into their forties.
- Polar Bear: Living in the freezing cold Arctic and parts of North America, polar bears live their entire lives in the snow. They live an average of 15-20 years in the wild, though some live over 30 years of age!
- Panda Bear: Panda bears are an endangered species because of their complicated breeding requirements. However, pandas live 10-15 years in the wild and over 20 years in captivity.
- Sun Bear: Also known as honey bears, sun bears are a unique bear species because of their closet and tongue. They can live an average of 10 to 20 years in the wild, while many sun bears live to be over 30 in captivity.
- Sloth Bear: Shaggy-looking bear found in India and beyond, the sloth bear seems to do well in captivity. It can live over 20 years in the wild, and over 40 years in zoos with proper medical care.
- Asiatic Black Bear: The Asiatic black bear has a long life, both in captivity and in the wild. They live an average of 25-30 years in the wild and over 40 years in captivity.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/USO
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.