Bears May22 07

European Brown Bear

Ursus arctos arctos

Brown bears are powerfully built with short, thick limbs, a big, heavily built body and a distinct shoulder hump, which is due to the large muscles needed for digging up roots and tubers. Their long straight claws are specially adapted for digging and can measure up to 10cm.

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Mish & Lucy

Mish and Lucy's playful behaviour has made them a crowd favourite since their arrival at Wildwood in 2021. Discovered abandoned on the side of a mountain in Albania, rescuers worked hard to rehabilitate the pair and try to re-establish them in the wild but these attempts failed. They now live happily in their 1.5 acre enclosure, with plenty of space to roam and exhibit their natural behaviours - which includes climbing trees! Mish is a fantastic older brother to Lucy and is recognisable by his bigger, bulkier build. Lucy, on the other hand, has retained some teddy bear features, with a cub-like face and a smaller stature than Mish.

Read on for more insights into brown bear characteristics and behaviours. 

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Brown bears undergo a winter hibernation, relying on fat reserves that they have built up over the summer period in order to see them through the winter months. Hibernation dens are usually caves, tree roots, and hollow logs. Brown bears are mostly solitary, but they will gather in large numbers at important food sources. In these instances, there is a social hierarchy based on age and size (with adult male bears being at the top). Females bears raise cubs on their own, having given birth during the winter hibernation period.

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UK Status

Bears have a long history in the UK, however evidence of them in the fossil record stops around the end of the medieval period (1066 onwards). After this, bear remains are only found in London probably due to bear baiting arenas.

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Historically, bears have been used for entertainment purposes (bear baiting, bear dancing) and this does still occur throughout the world. Bears are opportunistic feeders and are attracted to high human density areas to take advantage of our food sources; this leads to direct conflict.

Poaching (for gall bladders and paws) and canned hunting are big problems for most European brown bears. Habitat loss, persecution and accidental mortality are all threats for the European populations of brown bears that are expected to increase in the future.


Most widely distributed bear. Historically, they were once native to much of Asia, northern Africa, Europe and North America, however today, numbers have become greatly reduced, even becoming extinct in some areas.


Occupy a huge range of habitat types, from temperate rainforests, arctic scrublands, and coastal areas to even dry desert edges. This is thought to enable them to exploit a wide variety of food items seasonally.


Extremely varied omnivorous diet (meat and vegetation) which changes drastically through the seasons. Up to 75% of diet is made up of plant material (such as fruit, nuts, and acorns). Their daily calorific intake during summer and autumn can reach up to 20,000 calories in order to put enough weight on to safely see them through their winter hibernation.

Did you know?

Brown Bears can pack on a massive 180kg of fat during the autumn in order to get them through the winter. Male Brown bears can be at least 30% larger than females.

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