Popular culture gives us a number of friendly bear characters, such as Yogi Bear or Pooh Bear, that talk and are generally silly. However, even if they belong to a smaller species, live bears are all quite dangerous animals, especially females protecting their cubs with strong maternal instincts. Scripture shows that both male and female bears can be dangerous though, particularly when hungry. Why else would a major competitive sports team have chosen to name itself after the bear?
The first instance of the Hebrew word for the bear, dov, is found in 1 Samuel 17 when David is describing the animals he fought when defending his flock of sheep. David killed both lions and bears to save the lambs they hunted for food, giving credit to God for delivering him and them from danger. The bear is mentioned three times in this section, always as an animal attacking or trying to steal from the flock.
This begins the pattern of uses for bears; there is no positive mention of bears in Scripture. The best mention of the bear is in Isaiah 11 as a millennial prophecy about the changed nature of animals in the Kingdom of God. However, it is mentioned as eating peaceably with a cow, so it’s a backhanded compliment at best because the implication is that it was previously dangerous and can only be at peace with an herbivore once the world is at peace with God.