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Are There Bears in England & Which Ones?

There are no bears in England today. Once upon a time, there were about 13,000 brown bears roaming the British woodlands, however, they went extinct about 1,000 years ago. Since then, bears haven’t lived in England.

Bears are widely distributed. When first emerging as a species (about 20 million years ago), they roamed North America.

From there, they spread across the world, inhabiting America, Europe, and Asia.

But what about England? Are there any bears there? If not, were there bears in England once?

Those are some of the questions we’ll discuss in this article.

Are There Bears in England?

There are no bears in England today. They went extinct 1,000 years ago. Before this time, they were a rather common sight.

Bears have a long and complicated history in England. The brown bears that used to live there were once considered native, but now they are classified as extinct. 

There are many theories about why the bears went extinct, but the most likely explanation is that human development threatened their existence.

Ever since humans started invading their territories, the population declined.

Despite being extinct for hundreds of years, bears continue to capture our imaginations. They are often portrayed in stories and legends, and many people still hope that they will one day return to England. 

There are even some groups who are working to reintroduce bears into the British countryside.[1]

Nowadays, bears can be found in other countries and continents, including North America, South America, the Arctic, Europe, and Asia. There are also no bears in Africa or Australia.[2]

bear

Why Are There No Bears in England?

There are several reasons why bears disappeared from England, such as them being hunted, human settlements, and a lack of territory.

Some of the main reasons why there are no bears in England today are:

  • Human hunting
  • Human development
  • A decrease in territory and food sources
  • Climate change

Bears have been killed for centuries by hunters who saw them as a threat to livestock or simply as trophies. 

The deforestation of Britain also played a part in their decline – without trees to provide them with shelter, bears had fewer places to hide from humans and were easier to hunt.

Another factor that contributed to the bears’ extinction was climate change. The warmer weather that we are experiencing now means that bears can no longer survive in England – they need cooler climates in order to hibernate properly.

There is still some debate over why bears went extinct in Britain, but it is clear that a combination of human activity and changing environmental conditions led to their demise.

man hunting in the forest

Were There Ever Bears in England?

There is some evidence that bears may have been in England as recently as 1,000 years ago[2], but they are now extinct. Brown bears were the only type of bear found in England, and they mainly lived in the woodlands. 

The distribution of bears in England changed over time. 

In prehistoric times, bears were found all over the country. However, by the end of the last ice age around 11,000 years ago, their range had narrowed to the woodlands in the south and east of England. 

By medieval times, bears were only found in forested areas in central and southern England. 

It’s believed that there were about 13,000 brown bears about 7,000 years ago and that the last one died just over 1,000 years ago.

Which Bears Lived in Britain?

The only bears that lived in Britain were brown bears. More specifically, it was the Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos).

Bears began to migrate into Great Britain after the last ice age. The only bears that lived in Britain were brown bears.

The Euroasian bear, which can be found in other places throughout Europe, once lived in England. It’s a subspecies of the brown bear, which is very large, one of the largest land predators.

There were around 13,000 brown bears at one point, about 7,000 years ago. Now, they can only be found in Zoos.

Eurasian brown bear near the river

Where Do Bears Live In the World?

There are bears in many different parts of the world, including North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. 

In North America, bears live in Canada, Alaska, and the lower 48 states. These are brown bears, black bears, and even polar bears.

There are also bears in Mexico, Central America, and South America, more specifically the spectacled bear, but their numbers are declining.

In Asia, you can find Giant panda bears, Asiatic black bears, sun bears, and sloth bears.

Lastly, the Eurasian brown bear is roaming Europe.

Continent Species
North America Brown bear, Black bear, Polar bear
South America Spectacled bear
Asia Black bear, Giant panda, Sun bear, Brown bear, Sloth bear
Europe Brown bear

Bears in North America

Bears are found in North America, and there are different types of bears that live in different parts of the continent. 

  • The black bears are the smallest type of bears in North America, and they are found in the eastern and western parts of the continent. 
  • Brown bears are found throughout the continent, but keep to the coast.
  • The grizzly bears (subspecies of brown bears) are among the larger type of bears in North America, and they are found inland.
  • Lastly, the polar bear is the largest of all bear species, and reside in the Arctic regions.

The bears in North America live in different parts of the continent because they evolved differently over time. 

The black bears evolved from the grizzly bears, and the grizzly bears evolved from the brown bears[2]

Bears in Asia

There are five bear species in Asia: sloth bears, brown bears, black bears, sloth bears, and giant panda bears.

Asia is home to five of the world’s eight bear species. 

Of these, six are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically-endangered on the List.

The five bear species of Asia:

  • The Asiatic black bear is the smallest and most common bear in Asia[3]. It ranges across much of the continent, from Pakistan to Russia. 
  • The sun bears are also widespread, found from India to Indonesia. 
  • The sloth bears live in forests and jungles from India to Sri Lanka. 
  • The brown bears are the largest bears in Asia, found in Russia, Turkey, and parts of central Asia. 
  • Finally, there are one species that is found only in East Asia: the giant panda (and subspecies of this).

Bears have been present in Asia for tens of millions of years. They evolved from bears that crossed over to Asia from North America during the ice age.

black bear in asia

Bears in Europe

Bears used to be widespread all across Europe, but their distribution today is much more limited. Brown bears are now found in only a handful of countries in the continent, including Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Croatia. 

The bears in these countries are typically forest-dwellers, although they can also be found in mountainous areas.

One of the most interesting things about bears in Europe is their genetic diversity. 

Brown bears in different parts of Europe can look very different from one another, even though they are all considered to be brown bears. This is due to the fact that bears have been isolated in different parts of the continent for centuries, resulting in different evolutionary adaptations.

Conclusion

Bears in England were hunted to extinction around 1,000 years ago. There are no bears living in England today, but there is evidence that they once roamed the woodlands throughout the British Isles. 

Bears can be found all over the world, with different species occupying various regions. The brown bears that used to live in England were a subspecies of the European brown bear.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.