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Bears are carnivoran mammals of the family Ursidae. Scientists classify them as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans. Although there are only eight species, they are widespread. They appear in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere.

Common characteristics include large bodies with stocky legs. They have long snouts, small rounded ears, shaggy hair, and plantigrade paws with five nonretractile claws. Though these animals have tails, they are short.

While the polar bear is mostly carnivorous, and the giant panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo. Meanwhile, the remaining six species are omnivorous with varied diets. With the exception of courting individuals and mothers with their young, these are solitary animals. Despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they are great runners, climbers, and swimmers. Their sense of smell is excellent.

Bears use shelters, such as caves and logs, as their dens. Most species occupy their dens during the winter for a long period of hibernation.

The most widespread of the species is the brown bear, which ranges from Western Europe through Asia to the western areas of North America. The American black bear lives only in North America. Meanwhile, the polar bear’s habitat lies squarely in the Arctic Sea. All remaining species live in Asia.

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