Got Grizzlies?

Being able to live up to thirty years in the wild, the Grizzly Bear, or Ursus arctos, can be found in many different habitats in Northwestern North America. For instance, they can be found in woodlands, mountain forests, alpine meadows, prairies, and more. Although the Grizzly Bear can be found in many different habitats, their favorite habitat is said to be the riparian area along rivers and streams.

Photograph taken from

Photographs taken from

Grizzly Bears are sexually dimorphic. Being sexually dimorphic means that there are distinct differences (such as: size, appearance, sexual organs themselves, and more) seen between the two sexes of a particular species. Males are seen to be about 20%-100% larger than females. In addition, males are generally said to be heavier than the females weighing at about 1,700 pounds. On the other hand, a large female will usually weigh up to 800 pounds.

Female seen on the right. Male see on the left. Photograph taken from


Grizzly Bears are large animals. When standing on their hind feet, they can reach up to seven to nine feet tall and have a shoulder height of about three to five feet. They have a distinctive hump on their shoulders that attaches a mass of muscles to the bear’s backbone giving the bear additional strength required for digging. These bears also have a snout that rises abruptly on the forehead, a big head, concave face, small rounded ears, and hind feet with five toes each. The claws, located on the front paws are: large, strong, and slightly curved. These claws, usually about two to four inches long, are used mainly to dig food.  Both the hump and the claws are traits associated with their exceptional digging ability (watch video:


Photograph taken by me at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. 



Photograph taken from:
Photographs taken by me at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. 

In addition, they are covered with a heavy shaggy fur that is seen to range from a very light tan/cream to a very dark brown/black color. Although the correct scientific name for these species is “Brown Bear,” only coastal bears found in Alaska and Canada are referred to as such. On the other hand, inland bears and those found in the lower 48 states are referred to as Grizzly Bears. Grizzly bears were actually named after their  long guard hairs on the back and shoulders that frequently have white tips and give the bears a “grizzled” appearance.

Except for courting pairs and females with young, these bears are normally solitary. They are not very territorial and may even be seen feeding together where food is abundant (such as: at salmon streams and whitebark pine sites). They are usually peaceful, curious, and intelligent animals. They try to avoid a fight and run from danger. However, they are said to be short tempered and a very protective animal. According to the National Wildlife Federation, “they are fierce fighters and will attack anything that seems to threaten them or their cubs, food or home.” Additionally, they are seen to be more active throughout the early morning and evening.

Photographs taken from:

Grizzly Bears are omnivores (plant and meat eaters) and opportunistic feeders. Their diet can vary widely. For instance, their wild diet consists of: seeds, grasses, nuts, berries, fruits roots, grasses, fungi, moose, caribou,  deer, elk, fish (especially salmon), rodents (like ground squirrels), dead animals, and insects. In the late Summer and early Fall, these bears enter hyperphagia in order to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the winter denning period. During this time period, they can gain more than three pounds a day! Grizzly bears have such an excellent sense of smell that allows them to detect food from miles away.


Photographs taken from:

Grizzly Bears use mostly sounds, movement, and smells to communicate. They growl, moan or grunt, especially when females are communicating with their young or during mating season (when male bears can fight each other fiercely for the opportunity to mate with receptive females). In addition, these bears rub their bodies on trees to scratch and to let other bears know they are there.

The Grizzly Bear is listed as of “least concern” on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). However, unfortunately,  the grizzly’s population is gradually shrinking. In fact, the greatest threat to this bear is habitat fragmentation. Humans have invaded “bear country” by building homes, businesses, and highways. In effect, this breaks up the large expanses of continuous habitat that are vital for finding mates and food and raising cubs. In addition, unfortunately, Grizzlies are hunted primarily as game animals throughout Western Canada in spring and fall. Additionally, they have been illegally hunted by both landowners (who see the bears as a threat to their livestock) and poachers (who are interested in the bear’s teeth, claws, and internal organs (especially gall bladders)  for the Asian medical market).

Photograph taken from:
Photograph taken by me at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. 








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