Basic Facts About Grizzly Bears
The grizzly bear is a large predator that is different from black bears due to a distinctive hump on its shoulders. Grizzly bears have concave faces and long claws about the length of a human finger. Their coloration is usually darkish brown but can vary from very light cream to black.
The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a "grizzled" appearance, hence the name "grizzly." The correct scientific name for the species is “brown bear,” but only coastal bears in Alaska and Canada are referred to as such, while inland bears and those found in the lower 48 states are called grizzly bears.
© Harry Bosen
Did You Know?
Grizzly bears have a better sense of smell than a hound dog and can detect food from miles away.
Grizzly bears are omnivorous and will eat both vegetation and animals. Grasses, sedges, roots, berries, insects, fish, carrion and small and large mammals.
In some areas grizzly bears eat moose, caribou and elk, in others they eat salmon. Grizzly bear diet varies depending on what foods are available in that particular season.
Historically, there were around 50,000 grizzly bears in North America. Today, there are 1,000 - 1,200 grizzly bears remaining in five separate populations in the lower 48 states. In Alaska, there are thought to be over 30,000 grizzly bears.
Grizzly bears are found in a variety of habitats, from dense forests, to subalpine meadows and arctic tundra. In North America, grizzly bears are found in western Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Historically, they could be found from Alaska to Mexico, California to Ohio.
Did You Know?
Grizzly bears may gain as much as three pounds of weight a day as they prepare for hibernation.
The grizzly bear was once common on the Great Plains, but human encroachment has forced remaining populations to move to rugged mountains and remote forests.
Bears live solitary lives except during breeding, cub rearing, and in areas with a super-abundant food supply such as salmon streams. Grizzly bears hibernate during the winter for 5-8 months, and usually dig their dens on north-facing slopes to ensure good snow cover.
Grizzly bears need to eat a lot in the summer and fall in order to build up sufficient fat reserves for surviving the denning period. This is particularly true for pregnant females who give birth to one pound cubs and then nurse them to about 20 pounds before emerging from the den in April-May.
Mating Season: Early May through mid-July
Gestation: Anywhere from 180-270 days, including delayed implantation.
Litter Size: 1-3 cubs
The young are born in January or February while the mothers are hibernating in a den. Cubs will remain with their mothers for at least 2 - 4 years.