are large mammals in the order Carnivora. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere.
Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, paws with five nonretractile claws, and a short tail. While the Polar Bear is mostly carnivorous and the Giant Panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo, the remaining six species are omnivorous, with largely varied diets including both plants and animals.
With the exception of mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals. They are sometimes diurnal, but are usually active during the night or twilight. Bears are aided by an excellent sense of smell, and despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they can run quickly and be adept climbers and swimmers. Bears use shelters such as caves and burrows as their dens, which are occupied by most species during the winter for a long period of sleep similar to hibernation.
Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. To this day, they play a prominent role in the arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies. In modern times, bears have been exploited through the encroachment of their habitats and the illegal trade of bears and bear parts, including the Asian bile bear market. The IUCN lists six bear species as vulnerable or endangered, and even "least concern" species such as the Brown Bear are at risk of extirpation in certain countries. The poaching and international trade of these most threatened populations is prohibited, but still on;ing.