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What Sound Does a Bear Make? (Bear Vocalizations)

Bears use different vocalizations. They’re are known for their powerful growls, but they also bark, huff, mumble and whimper. Each of these vocalizations serves a specific purpose in communication.

What does a bear say?

Those are the questions we’ll answer in this article, along with what their sounds mean, and how they use them.

By understanding the different sounds that bear make, we can better interpret their behavior and avoid potentially dangerous encounters.

What Sounds Do Bears Make?

Bears make a lot of sounds, from growling, barking, and huffing, to mumbling, purring and whimpering. Each sound a bear makes has a specific meaning and is used to communicate with other bears.

Bears use a variety of vocalizations for various reasons.

For example, when they’re angry or threatened, they’ll growl or bark. If they want to show dominance, they might huff or snort. Cubs will mumble and purr when being groomed by their mothers, and whimper when they’re scared or hurt.

All of these vocalizations help them talk.

The most common vocalizations include:

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Huffing
  • Mumbling
  • Purring
  • Whimpering
  • Snorting
  • Grunting
  • Clacking their teeth
angry bear in the dark

Growl, Bark & Huff

Bears make a variety of vocalizations that sound like a growl, bark, or huff which means the bear is agitated, angry, or annoyed. 

These sounds are usually accompanied by body language that indicates the bear is ready to attack or defend itself. The huffing sound a bear makes is often mistaken for snorting, which is common in domestic dogs.

Squeal & Whimper

A squeal or whimper means that a bear is in distress or pain. They make this noise when they feel threatened or scared. 

Cubs sometimes whimper to let their mother know that they need her. 

If you hear a squeal or whimper, back away slowly and leave the area. Do not try to approach the bear. It is best to give them space and allow them to calm down on their own.

Mumble & Purr

A mumble or purr means contentment. 

A mumble is usually made when a bear is content and happy. Cubs will often mumble when they are cuddling up to their mother. 

The purr is another sound of contentment, and it’s similar to the purr of a cat. It’s usually used as a sign of happiness or friendliness. Bears will sometimes purr when they’re eating because it means that they’re enjoying what they’re eating.

Sounds of Different Species

Species Sound
Polar Bear Aggressive Huff
Black Bear Growl/Long Huff/High Pitched Bark
Grizzly Bear Growl/Huff/Bark
Panda Bear Bleat/Honk/High Pitched Squeal
Sloth Bear Huffing/Humming

What Sound Does a Polar Bear Make?

Polar bears have several vocalizations which have been determined to be associated with distinct situations or motivations for making noise. 

Their most often vocalization is likely what is called an aggressive huff a low-frequency snorting sound that may serve as an agonistic signal between animals. 

These huffs take three forms and are emitted in varying contexts during social encounters, when encountering prey or a threat, and as an alarm call.

Polar bear cubs will also let out small pulses of vocalizations, which are used to stimulate milk production in their mother.[1]

angry polar bear

What Sound Does a Black Bear Make?

Black bears tend to be noisy animals with various vocalizations. 

The most common type of call is a “growl”. Growling can express agitation and is often used as a warning sound it also indicates whether aggressive or fearful.[2]

They also let out a low-pitched, long “huff”.

A high-pitched “bark” or shriek is usually a vocalization used by young cubs, which is done to either get attention or just to make noise.

black bear close up

What Sound Does a Grizzly Bear Make?

Grizzly bears make a variety of noises, including growling, barking, and huffing; mumbling, purring and whimpering; as well as moaning, hissing, and roaring.[3] 

They use vocalizations to communicate with each other, as well as to signal warnings or show aggression. 

Grizzlies also make different sounds depending on their mood or the situation they’re in. For example, a mother grizzly may moan and hum to her cubs when she’s worried or upset.

Big brown bear in forest

What Sound Does a Panda Bear Make?

Giant pandas have some unique vocalizations. They bleat which is a friendly greeting, honk when anxious or distressed, and during the breeding season.

A receptive female will chirp when meeting a male. 

Cubs make a high-pitched squeal when playing and adults will grunt softly when mating. 

Male pandas also emit a loud roar as an act of aggression or to mark their territory.

panda bear eating bamboo

What Sound Does a Sloth Bear Make?

Sloth bears make a huffing sound when sucking up food, which sounds like a vacuum. They also make a humming noise when they are content.

 When they are angry or threatened, they make a growling sound that is similar to other bears. 

Sloth bears have very few vocalizations, but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality. Their sounds are unique and interesting to listen to.

sloth bears walking on the field

Additional Bear Communication

Body Language

The body language of a bear says a lot. They use their body to display dominance or submission, play, and more.

When a bear stands tall and erect, with its chest out and head held high, it is displaying dominance. This posture is often used to show other bears who are in charge, or when they are trying to scare off predators or people. 

A submissive bear will usually hunch over, keeping its head down and its tail tucked between its legs.

Bears also use their body positioning to communicate what they’re feeling. 

When two bears meet each other, they’ll often stand on their hind legs and “hug” each other with their front paws. This position is called the “bear hug” and it’s a way of fighting.

Facial Expression

Depending on how a bear holds its head, places its ears, and uses its mouth, it can communicate different things:

  • When a bear’s mouth is open and its lips are pulled back, it shows aggression. 
  • When a bear curls its upper lip (called the snarl), it’s very angry. 
  • If a bear sticks out its tongue, it’s trying to be friendly.

Bears Use Communication to Avoid Fighting

Bears prefer not to fight. Instead of fighting when they come across another bear, they’ll use vocalizations, body language, and facial expressions.

Bears avoid a fight by using vocalizations and posturing[4]. This can help prevent serious conflicts and injuries and along with this, conserve the energy they need to survive.

They make a lot of sounds, from growling, barking, and huffing, to mumbling, purring and whimpering. They use vocalizations to communicate with each other as well as facial expressions and body positioning.

The purpose of all these different sounds is usually to resolve conflicts before they get out of hand or to avoid them altogether. 

For example: if two bears encounter each other in the forest, they may give a few warning huffs. The stronger of the two bears will act dominant, to make the other bear show submission.

Conclusion

Bears make a variety of sounds depending on their mood or the situation they are in. These vocalizations can be used to communicate with each other, as well as display dominance, submission, and happiness. 

Bears often use body language and facial expressions along with their vocalizations to get their point across. In general, bears try to avoid fighting and will use communication to resolve conflicts peacefully.

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.