Standard hematology parameters were determined for 122 sloth bears (Melursus ursinus ursinus) at the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, India (27°0′N; 77°45′E), and the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Karnataka, India (12°48′N; 77°34′E) from March 2003 to July 2006. These two native sloth bear habitats have different climatic conditions and provided an opportunity to examine the effect of climate on the physiologic hematology values of these bears. We primarily analyzed the influence of age, sex, season, and body weight on the different hematology parameters. Several values were significantly different in sloth bear cubs (≤1 yr) when compared to adult and sub-adult bears (>1 yr). The cubs had a lower erythrocyte count, hemoglobin concentration, packed cell volume (PCV), and mean cell hemoglobin (MCV) values when compared to adult and subadult bears. The cubs also had higher leukocyte counts, due to higher circulating neutrophils, as compared to adult and subadult bears. Within subadult and adult bears, we also identified a sexual dimorphic difference in leukocyte count in adult and subadult bears, wherein female bears had higher counts than males. This difference was the result of a significantly higher number of circulating neutrophils in female bears. Platelet counts were also higher in females as compared to males. On comparing different seasons, leukocyte counts were higher in winter as compared to the summer and monsoon seasons. When compared based on location, erythrocyte counts were higher in subadult and adult bears at Bannerghatta, which was at a higher altitude than Sur Sarovar. Within subadult and adult bears, we did not find any significant influence of age or body weight on the different hematologic parameters. In this study we have obtained mean hematologic values for sloth bears in their native habitat to serve as a reference for this species. This report will be useful to develop and evaluate health profiles of sloth bears under various ecological conditions.
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