Are Bears Omnivores? Bear Species Diet Guide

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Are Bears Omnivores

An animal is classified as either an herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore, depending on what it eats. Herbivores depend on plants for nutrients, while carnivores depend entirely on meat for nutrients. 

Omnivores have fascinating dietary needs, as they can feed on plant-based food and meat for nutrients. 

That said, are bears herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores? Do all bear species eat the same food items?

This article answers whether bears are omnivores and gives their diet guide according to species. 

Keep reading to learn all these things and more. 

Are Bears Omnivores?

Yes, bears are classified as omnivores, as they obtain nutrients from both meat and plant-based foods. 

So though they are taxonomically classified as Carnivora, bears don’t rely entirely on meat for food. Most people assume that bears are strictly meat eaters because they belong to the taxonomic order Carnivora.

Well, this is not true. You’ll be surprised to learn that a vast percentage of what bears eat is plant matter.

According to scientists, plants make up more than 80% of a bear’s diet and sometimes as much as 90%, depending on the species. However, meat is their primary source of proteins, and they eat animals, fish, and insects to obtain this.

They also ingest meat to obtain animal fat that helps with weight, reproduction, and vitality. Like foxes, raccoons, and other omnivore animals, bears play an essential role in the food chain. 

Each food chain contains several trophic levels, and these levels illustrate an organism’s role in the ecosystem. Bears, like most omnivores, occupy the third trophic level and are important in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. 

Are all bears omnivores?

A polar bear eating a pumpkin
A polar bear eating a pumpkin

All bears are omnivores, though each species has its own diet preferences. These animals have unspecialized digestive systems resembling those of carnivores.

However, unlike carnivores, bears have elongated digestive tracts, allowing them to digest plant matter efficiently. And though they can digest vegetation, bears lack the cecum found in ruminants, so they cannot digest plant components as required.

To make up for the inefficient digestion of cellulose, these omnivorous animals maximize the quality of plant foods ingested. One way they do this is to go for plants in the phenological stage, particularly those with high nutrients that are easier to digest.

This way, bears can obtain the required nutrients with less effort. All bears are adapted to digest meat and plant matter. As such, bears have sharp incisors to tear and rip off meat in bits.

They also have four-pointed canines and molars with flat crowns to help crush plant matter and make it easy to digest. 

Interestingly, different bear species have different dentitions. For example, while black and polar bears have a set of 42 teeth, adult sloth bears only have 40 teeth. 

They also have different dental formulas that help them adapt to specific diets. That’s right; while all bears are omnivores, each species is adapted to a specific diet. 

What Each Bear Species Eats

As I said, all bears are omnivores, but different species have specific diet preferences. Besides, bears eat different foods in different seasons. Let’s check out what different bear species eat.

Polar Bear Diet

A polar bear eating a fish in the wild
A polar bear eating a fish in the wild

Seals are the main source of food for polar bears. However, these animals also eat large mammals like walruses and reindeer, and sometimes their own kind.

Small animals like rodents and birds are not spared either. Polar bears will feast on them anytime they come across them. 

As for vegetation, polar bears enjoy eating berries and roots, though these make up a tiny part of their diet. They can swim perfectly, and this helps them catch seals. They are also very strong, and their color helps them blend well with the environment. 

American Black Bear Diet

An American Black Bear walking in the forest
An American Black Bear walking in the forest

Season and location greatly affect what the black bear species eats. But in general, these animals feast on fish, meat, succulent plants, berries, and insects. They prefer hunting small mammals because it’s easier for them.

But if they can’t find these, they will sneak on livestock and look for food in human garbage. They will also not spare fruit trees and beehives, especially if they are starving and can’t find anything to eat. 

And if they come across any pet food, they will gobble on it as they look for prey. That’s why it’s not uncommon to find black bears near populated areas because they can quickly adapt to whatever is available for food in these areas and roam around as they scare humans away. 

Sun Bear Diet

A Sun Bear sitting beside a tree
A Sun Bear sitting beside a tree

Research by the University of Cambridge shows that sun bears eat at least forty-eight types of termites and sixty types of ants. 

This shows they have a diverse diet and can survive on different types of insects. Alongside insects, sun bears eat fruits, eggs, mammals, and even reptiles. 

Researchers have even found remains of python in their scat. Due to their flexible dietary needs, sun bears can thrive in almost any environment. If vegetation is scarce, they will switch to an insect-based diet and switch back to plant matter in other seasons. 

Brown Bear Diet

A Brown Bear taking a bath on a lake
A Brown Bear taking a bath on a lake

Berries, mushrooms, and plants make up a huge part of the brown bear diet. They also eat roots and flowers, as well as salmon. This species enjoys eating fish more than the other seven species. 

It’s also not uncommon to find them eating dead animals, especially if it’s the only available option. They are large, so they need more food than other small bear species. 

As the name suggests, these animals are brown and have long claws that are used to dig up food. The claws also come in handy when they are picking on prey or picking fruits from a tree. 

Giant Panda Diet

A Giant Panda Bear looking cute while eating a bamboo
A Giant Panda Bear looking cute while eating a bamboo

Giant pandas have a digestive system similar to that of a carnivore but rely primarily on plant matter for food. As a result, a lot of ingested food is removed as waste, resulting in inefficient digestion.

For compensation, giant pandas need to eat larger amounts of food to obtain the required nutrients for optimal health. So most of their time is spent foraging and eating, and the remaining hours of sleep are used to recover their energy.

This bear species eats bamboo leaves and sometimes tubers or different types of grass. They also eat meat, particularly rodents, and fruits like bananas and oranges. These animals will also eat eggs and hunt birds for food. 

Sloth Bear Diet

A Sloth Bear looking happy on grass
A Sloth Bear looking happy on grass

Unlike other bears, sloth bears prefer hunting termites and ants for food. They are omnivores, too, but their hunting skills are utilized differently.

Apart from ants and termites, these bears eat bugs and grubs. As for plant matter, they eat mangoes, sugar cane, and petals from pudding-pipe trees. They seem to have a sweet tooth compared to other bear species. In fact, these animals eat honey as well. 

It seems they are the only species designed to feed on insects. Other bears also eat insects, but the sloth bear has a long lower lip to help it eat insects. That’s where they derive the name “labiated bear.”

Besides, this species can smell a mound, use its claws to open it, and then suck all the insects out. 

Sloth bears will often eat mangoes and flowers during the monsoon season and feast on insects and honey the rest of the year. In times of scarcity, they will eat dead animals and sometimes raid farms for food. 

Andean Bear Diet

An Andean Bear eating a carrot on snow
An Andean Bear eating a carrot on snow

Andean bears are often found in South America. This places them in an advantageous position, as the warm region is full of food throughout the year.

Though Andean bears can hunt like most bear species, they prefer sneaking on livestock or scavenging for plants. This seems like an easier target and makes me think they are pretty lazy. 

Andean bears eat different fruits and palm leaves, and sometimes they feed on cacti. You can also find them eating the bark of trees. 

This bear species has unique light-colored rings of fur around the eyes, creating a spectacle look. As a result, they are also called “the spectacled bear,” as the pattern makes them look like they are wearing spectacles.

This feature makes it easy to differentiate them from all the other species. Most have black fur, though sometimes you’ll see one with dark brown fur. They are large, but males are larger than females. 

Asian Bear Diet

An Asian Bear scratching his back on a concrete wall
An Asian Bear scratching his back on a concrete wall

Asian bears have a diverse diet. They can eat insects, termites, and bees, as well as fruits, grains, and honey.

Even seeds, nuts, and grass are edible to them, not forgetting that they also adapt to human garbage. Going by this, it seems like this species eats just whatever is available, which makes them adaptable to different environments.

Most bears eat more plant matter than meat, but Asian bears are more carnivorous. It hunts buffaloes, boars, and sometimes livestock. 

They’ll sometimes eat dead fish, especially between July and September. They may also eat vines and grapes during this season, as well as pine cones. In May and June, Asian bears rely on green vegetation for food.

Some foods will be available in other seasons and be scarcer later. That’s why these animals switch to whatever is available for survival.

What Do Baby Bears Eat?

Baby bears often eat flowers, honey, fruits, insects, and plant buds. However, this depends on the species and what is available. Most baby bears don’t have special dietary needs, so they eat what adult bears eat.

Only baby sloth bears stand out in terms of feeding, as they eat stick material called “bear’s bread,” made by their mothers. These mothers regurgitate a partially digested mixture of honeycomb, jackfruit, and apples, which hardens into a yellow substance that is then fed to baby sloth bears.

Here are some bear diets

Final Thoughts

All bear species are omnivores but don’t eat the same food items. While others prefer feeding on meat, other species love eating plant-based food, but all can digest both meat and plant matter.

Some species have insect-based diets and rely on different types of insects for proteins. One constant, though, is that all bear species adapt to available foods and change to whatever is available when necessary. 

Now you know. Bears can eat anything, from insects to birds, fish, rodents, small mammals, and even their own kind! They also eat fruits, tree bark, succulents, and tubers. However, this varies according to species and location.

Photo of author


Jessica grew up in a household of furry pets. She learned from a young age just how loyal a dog could be and in her early years Jess and her Alaskan Malamute (Max) were inseparable. Jessica enjoys spending time with her dogs and other pets, usually going on walks in the afternoons. She believes having a pet is meant to be fun and enjoyable and not a stressful event. So she created Pets Farmhouse to share what she has learned (the good and the bad) so you can create that special bond with your pet too.