Formosan black bears (Ursus thibetanus formosanus), also known as the white-throated bear because of the markings on its chest, is the largest mammal in Taiwan.
The Formosan bear lives in the mountainous forests in the eastern two-thirds of Taiwan at elevations of 3,300 to 9,800 ft. The largest populations are found on Lala Mountain in the Chatienshan Reserve, the (Snow) Mountain area in Sheipa National Park, and from Taroko National Park south to Tawushan Reserve through Yushan National Park.
Formosan black bears vary in size from 47″ to 75″ in height and weigh from 110 lbs. to 440 lbs. They have rough glossy black fur and the fur around the neck area can grow up to 4 inches long.
Their heads are round and the neck is short. Their eyes are small and they have long snouts. They have an overall sturdy build. And, like other Asian black bears, they have a signature white or yellow V-shaped patch of fur on their chest.
Formosan black bears are omnivorous. Their diet is made up primarily of leaves, buds, fruits, and roots. However, they do feed on insects and other small animals.
It has been noted that the bears in Yushan National Park prefer to feed on lush vegetation in spring, soft fruits rich in carbohydrate in summer, and fat-loaded hard mast (e.g., acorn and walnut) in fall/winter.
Formosan black bears usually mate from June to August. The gestation period is about eight months and females typically give birth to one to three cubs. The female nurses the cubs for about six months and they live with their mother for one to two years.
The Formosan black bear was listed as an endangered species under Taiwan’s Culture Heritage and Conservation Law in 1989. They are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), banning all international trade of any products derived from the species.
Interesting Facts About Formosan Black Bears
- In the winter, rather than hibernating like Asiatic black bears in temperate areas, they move to lower elevations to find food.
- Formosan black bears are the only bears on the planet that make temporary nests.
- Formosan black bears can easily outrun humans, reaching speeds of 30–40 km per hour.
- They are skilled swimmers and climbers.
- The Formosan black bear is the national animal of Taiwan.
- They are also known as the dog bear because they are known to bark like dogs and have long muzzles similar to dogs.
- Formosan black bears are very territorial animals and mark their territory with scratches on trees or urinating on the ground.
- They are also very solitary creatures except during mating season or when caring for their offspring.
- They are active for 54–57% of daylight hours, and more active during summer (60%) and fall/winter (60%) than spring (47%).
- They are primarily active during the day in the spring and summer; and increasingly active at night in the fall/winter.
- During the days in winter, they rest in hollow trees or caves.
- There are an estimated 200 to 300 Formosan black bears remaining in the wild in Taiwan.
- The natural life span of Formosan black bears is 25 to 30 years.
- The Current Status of Formosan Black Bear in Taiwan
- The status and management of Asiatic black bears in Taiwan by MY Hwang and Y. Wang
- 18 Facts about Formosan Black Bear (Video)