A recent study on the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) has predicted a significant reduction in suitable habitat and biological corridors of the species in the climate change scenario, prompting scientists to suggest an adaptive spatial planning of protected area network in the western Himalayas for conserving the species.
The study carried out in the western Himalayas by scientists of Zoological Survey of India, predicted a massive decline of about 73% of the bear’s habitat by the year 2050.
What are Himalayan Brown Bears?
The Himalayan brown bear is one of the largest carnivores in the highlands of Himalayas. It occupies the higher reaches of the Himalayas in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan and India, in small and isolated populations, and is extremely rare in many of its ranges.
Range: North-western and central Himalaya, including Pakistan, India, Nepal, the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China and Bhutan. Populations are present in the Great Himalayan National Park (Himachal Pradesh) and the Deosai National Park, Pakistan. May also be present in south and western Ladakh, in the upper Suru and Zanskar valleys.
Habitat: High altitude open valleys and pastures. During the summer months the bears move up as high as the snow-line at around 5,500 metres and then descend into the valleys in the autumn. Himalayan brown bears seem to be arguably the least arboreal of all the bear subspecies.
This species exists in small isolated populations in the fragmented alpine and subalpine habitats.
Himalayan brown bears live in remote parts of the western Himalayas.
IUCN Status: Critically endangered
Food: Omnivorous, eating grasses, root, bulbs and other plants, insects and small mammals such as marmots, pikas and voles. In the autumn they descend to lower levels to feed on fruits and berries. They will also take sheep and goats and feed upon carrion when found.
Behaviour: Himalayan brown bears are diurnal and, except during mating and for mothers with cubs, are solitary. Mating takes place during May and June with cubs being born in the winter den in December and January. The bears go into hibernation in a cave or dug-out den around October, emerging in April or May.
Threats: Habitat loss, killing by livestock herders, and poaching for fur and for the illegal body parts trade. In Pakistan there are the additional threats of habitat insularisation and bear baiting. Overall, the population is in decline.