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Grizzly Bear

grizzly bear factsThe grizzly bear is a powerful species and is master of its natural habitat. Its anatomy includes a notable muscular hump on its back above it's shoulders. It has a big head and its claws are quite long. Other characteristics include a dished face and a dip between its eyes.

It can easily overpower any animal in its territory. In fact wolves and cougars realize this and surrender their prey when the grizzly shows up. In the different habitats where grizzly bears live they will eat whatever they can find.

Normally avoiding people, grizzly bear temperament can change if cornered, surprised, or a mother's cub is endangered. However human attacks are uncommon. Their fur color varies from black to brown to mid-blond, often with highlighted "grizzly" tips. Many world record grizzly bears live in Alaska.

Historic information shows grizzlies once lived across the Great Plains and the entire western half of the United States and western Canada. Today in the lower 48 states it survives in reserves such as Yellowstone National Park, among others.


The world's largest grizzly bear ever recorded is contingent on definition. Issues center around what determines "the biggest". Factors include weight, head size, length of the bear, height of the bear when standing, dimension of shoulders, etc. Compounding the problem is often incomplete records that may or may not be authenticated.

Many claims of a giant grizzly bear of world record status have been submitted but not verified. Some are embellished with man eating stories. One of the more famous reports is a grizzly bear from Alaska having an enormous weight of 1600 pounds. The 12.6 foot tall bear had a massive head and teeth. Its gigantic paws had impressive claws never before seen.

This information received much publicity because of the bear's incredible size. The fact is that it did live in Alaska and its actual weight is closer to 1200 pounds with a height of around 10 feet. Claims of attacks by the bear that endangered the hunters have been disputed. Still this is giant bear my any measure and until disproved holds the grizzly world record for largest size.


  • Life span: About 20 to 30 years.
  • How big is a grizzly bear? Size is up to 4 feet when on all four paws. Standing height up to 7 feet.
  • Weight: 350 to 800 pounds for male bears, and roughly 25% less for females. Weight depends on what they eat, where they live, and season.
  • Population: Grizzly bear population has declined to about 1200 in the continental U.S. (lower 48 states) and they are only found in limited areas of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. About 31,000 grizzlies live in Alaska. About 21,000 are in western Canada.
  • Grizzly Bear behavior: The grizzly bear is a solitary animal but can be seen in the company of other bears where food sources are plentiful. For example popular fishing spots such as salmon streams can have many bears lined on the banks. They also socialize during the breeding season when mating. Cubs will play with siblings until adulthood.
  • Climbing ability: Grizzly bears are strong and have long claws but they are not good climbers. Their claws are used for digging, picking fruits, and catching prey.
  • grizzly bear endangeredSenses: Poor eyesight but their sense of smell is keen.
  • Where do they build dens? In any protective space such as caves, burrows, dead timber, etc.
  • Are grizzlies dangerous? They would rather issue threats and posture than engage in actual conflict. Human attacks are rare. When endangered they can attack with much ferocity, for example when a mother defends her cubs.
  • Hibernation: At the end of summer grizzlies eat as much as possible to accumulate additional fat for the winter. They enter their dens and hibernate. Grizzly hibernation is a light sleep. They can awaken anytime if disturbed.
  • Breeding: Mating season occurs for a few months in the middle of summer. Grizzly bear cubs are born in the late winter and spring like most bears of the world. A litter of twins is most common. Mother and cubs stay in their den until spring.
  • Range: Grizzly bears can migrate long distances. In fact many have been recorded to roam several hundred miles. They migrate to find food sources. Distances covered are reduced if food is more abundant, such as in parts of Alaska where salmon sources are plentiful.
  • Tracks: Their footprints are often confused with black bear tracks. Grizzly bear paws have longer nails and the base is more elongated. Hence their tracks reveal this quality. Grizzly bear paw prints will have partial or full nail prints with the tips measuring up to 4 inches. The print of the base will be more oval versus a rounded base. Hind tracks will be more angular without an indentation pattern.


The range of the grizzly bear once covered most of the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. Relentless human expansion and hunting has diminished the bears habitat to Alaska, western Canada, and a handful of northwest states. In the United States there are grizzly bears in reserves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington.

Grizzly bear habitat includes a wide range of territories. They can be found in valleys, brush meadows, mountains, and dense forests. They also live near rivers and coastal areas since they like fish. In general populations gather near areas where food sources are abundant.

Their limited habitat is under ongoing threat from energy companies (oil and gas), deforestation, roads, mining, and housing development. Often their territories are carved into separate segments isolating migration and foraging patterns.


The primary reason for a grizzly bear attack is a mother defending her cubs. Baby grizzly bears are vulnerable to predators. The mother will not hesitate to defend them against all other animals including other bears.

Grizzly bear teeth, claws, and size are impressive. Yet they would prefer to posture than attack. It will often growl, roar, or stage a false charge to avoid a fight. A standing grizzly is not a threat, it is trying to get a better view and pick up scents.

Grizzly bear human attacks are rare but can occur if the bear is surprised or is raising cubs. The number of fatal human attacks is actually low. They do not naturally hunt people to eat. For the record grizzlies are like people, they would prefer to avoid each other!

As a precaution it is wise to make lots of noise when hiking in territories where they live. Never run from a grizzly, even if you feel endangered. Despite their large size, they can run very fast in short bursts. Running may trigger their chase instinct. If you see a grizzly bear cub calmly leave the area.


Grizzly Bear eating fish The grizzly bear is at the top of the food chain. Their diet depends on what is available and the time of year.

Since grizzlies are omnivorous they will eat almost any kind of food where they live. Their diet includes mostly plant edibles such as wild berries, grasses, flowers, tubers, wild vegetables, etc. They also eat bugs, rodents, and can attack larger animals for food. If their habitat includes streams or ponds/lakes they will eat any kind fish, including salmon and trout.

Scientist records indicate bears make good use of their claws. They can turn over rocks, rip bark off trees to inspect for insects, and rake berries from branches.

Despite the fact that their habitat and population are endangered, they are one of the most adaptable bear species in the world. They can adapt to eat almost any kind of diet. Alaska is a perfect example as it has many different plants, insects, and animals.


Prior to arrivals from the old world (Europe), grizzly bears where numerous and lived in large areas of the western United States and Canada. Since then the grizzly has been on the decline from hunting, persecution, and elimination of it's natural habit as humans invade the spaces where they live, eat, and raise their cubs. In fact past records from the last century show that they have been eliminated from nearly 97% of their original territory in the contiguous United States.

The Endangered Species Act has classified the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the continental United States. However in 2007 the bears were removed from the list at Yellowstone National Park. Other reserves where the bears reside include locations in Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming.

Grizzly bears are classified as vulnerable/threatened in most of Canada. Solutions to prevent further threats against them must be enacted to prevent their population from further decline.


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