grizzly bear

grizzly facts

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key point:

  • Native to North America, grizzlies are known for their silvery tips and shiny fur.
  • Contrary to popular belief, grizzlies don't go into true hibernation. They enter a mild form of hibernation called torpor.
  • Grizzly and polar bear hybrids are known as "pizzly" bears.

The Grizzly – A Misunderstood Creature

The grizzly is a species of brown bear that was once abundant in the western and northwestern United States. This animal is also known as the North American brown bear. The name "grizzly" comes from the light-colored tips on the bear's fur, which give it an off-white or silvery appearance.

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grizzly facts

  • About 1,500 grizzly bears live in the lower 48 states of the United States.
  • In the United States, the grizzly bear is a threatened species.
  • The California grizzly is extinct.
  • The hybrid between a grizzly bear and a polar bear is named "Grizzly". In a polar bear vs. grizzly bear sparring, the grizzly bear reigns supreme, for the most part.

Want to learn more about the Grizzlies? Check out "10 Unbelievable Grizzly Bear Facts". Here's a preview of what you'll find inside, a grizzly bear's sense of smell is 2,100 times better than a human's!

grizzly bear in alaska
A grizzly is a type of brown bear.

© Pat de la Harpe/Shutterstock.com

scientific name

Grizzlies are a subspecies of brown bears known as Ursus arctos. Ursus arctos horribilis is the scientific name for these bears. Ursus means bear in Latin, and Arctos comes from Arktos, which means bear in Greek. Horriblilis is a Latin word meaning terrible.



appearance and behavior

Grizzlies are very light or dark brown animals. Grizzlies have large heads, saucer-shaped faces, short rounded ears, and short tails. The stout bear has a large, muscular hump on the upper back that provides strength for digging. The curved, large, strong claws on the front paws of a grizzly help the bear dig holes in the ground for food. Grizzly bears also use their claws to flip over rocks in search of insects. It's not uncommon for a male grizzly to be eight feet tall, which is taller than any basketball player. Males can weigh up to 900 pounds. Females are smaller, weighing 300-400 lbs. Grizzlies that live where food is plentiful tend to be heavier. Bears spend most of their time alone, roaming their habitat and looking for food.

Although grizzlies are solitary animals, it is not uncommon to see a few grizzlies preying on fish near salmon-rich rivers. Grizzlies are animals that hibernate or are inactive during the colder months. They store enough fat in summer to keep them alive during hibernation. Grizzlies burrow or find hibernating burrows. Once a grizzly enters hibernation, it remains there for about five months. During that time, the bear does not eat, drink, urinate or defecate. In early spring, grizzlies wake up from hibernation.

Learn about "The Boss" Grizzly, who was hit by a train and survived.

Grizzlies can be very light or dark brown, with large heads, saucer-shaped faces, short rounded ears, and short tails.

evolution and history

Although it may be somewhat confusing, the grizzly bear is a subspecies of the brown bear, which migrated from Asia to North America 40,000 – 60,000 years ago. Brown bears, then, seem to fall into basically two groups: coastal brown bears and grizzly bears.

During the 1800's and early 1900's, biologists determined that there were many different types of grizzly bears—almost 90! Over time, that decreased to fewer than ten, and now there is only one, which has been confirmed by genetic testing.

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The Kodiak bear (Ursus Arctos Middendorffi) and the grizzly bear (Ursus Arctos Horribilis) share many similarities and appearances, but they are both subspecies of the brown bear. In North America, if you see a brown bear, it's probably just a brown bear, or it could be a Kodiak or a grizzly!

Habitat

Grizzlies need large areas of habitat to roam and hunt. Females require up to 300 square miles and males up to 500 square miles, but grizzly habitat can overlap. The western United States used to be where grizzlies roamed freely, as far south as Mexico. However, rural development resulted in habitat loss as settlers moved westward. Human invasions have brought grizzlies to higher ground, such as the Northern Rockies and other remote areas of the Northwest. The California grizzly bear or Ursos arctos californicus has been extinct since the early 1900s. The grizzly bear is the state animal of California, which is proudly displayed on the state flag.

Most of the 1,500 remaining grizzlies in the lower 48 live in or around northwestern Montana and Yellowstone National Park. There are large populations of grizzly bears in northern Canada and in interior Alaska. While grizzlies are considered big game, in the continental United States, there are laws protecting bears from extinction. In 1975, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed bears in the lower 48 US states as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Humans continue to threaten grizzly habitat. Bears that live near campsites will become accustomed to finding food left at campsites and trash disposal areas. Humans who feel threatened by bears sometimes kill them. Although the grizzly bear is on the endangered species list, illegal hunting or poaching still poses a threat to grizzly bears.

A brown Canadian grizzly bear standing in green grass in a clearing with dense woods in the background in the Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada
Male grizzlies need about 500 square miles of space to roam and hunt.

© iStock.com/Matthew James Ferguson

diet

Grizzlies are omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals. Grizzlies eat plant foods such as berries, grasses, roots, mushrooms, insects, and animals such as deer, elk, and mice. Known for its love of fish, the bear often lives near remote rivers. Bears are big eaters and can eat up to 90 pounds of food a day, which is equivalent to eating more than 350 large burgers! When food is scarce, grizzlies may rummage through trash or try to find food at campsites.

The hunting and eating habits of grizzlies play an important role in keeping the ecosystems in the areas they live healthy. When grizzlies eat plant-eating animals, it helps keep those animals from destroying plant life in areas where grizzlies roam. When they dig for food, grizzlies turn or turn over the soil. After eating, grizzlies leave behind uneaten animal parts and decomposing carcasses to use as natural soil fertilizer.

what grizzly eats
Grizzlies eat berries, roots, salmon, and nuts.

© AZ-Animals.com

Predators and Threats

Movies and TV shows have portrayed grizzly bears as aggressive towards humans. However, humans are the biggest threat to bears. These bears live alone, avoiding humans. They will flee dangerous situations but become aggressive when threatened. If animals or humans try to harm grizzly bears or their cubs, bears can quickly become violent and attack. About half of grizzly bear cubs do not survive to adulthood due to disease and grizzly predators including cougars, wolves and adult males.

hike, bear, person, man, Grizzly Bear
Humans are the greatest threat to grizzlies.

© iStock.com/xalanx

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

Grizzlies breed when they reach maturity, between the ages of three and eight. Bears mate from May to July, with June and July being the peak breeding months. During mating, the male spends about a month with the female and then leaves. The females enter the nest and hibernate during the winter. After about five months, between January and March, the female usually gives birth to two babies, called pups, but can produce up to four. Young grizzly cubs feed on fat-rich mother's milk. Cubs remain under the protection of their mothers until they are about two years old. Half of all grizzly bear cubs are at risk of dying before reaching adulthood due to disease and predators. Grizzlies typically live to be 20-25 years old, but some can live to be 30 years old.

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Grizzly and Cubs
Grizzlies typically give birth to two cubs, but can have as many as four.

© iStock.com/Gillian Cooper

population

There are an estimated 1,500 grizzlies in the lower 48 states, down from 50,000 in the early 1800s. There are approximately 30,000 grizzlies in Alaska and 26,000 in Canada. A light-colored grizzly called the prizzly-bear also lives in Alaska. This grizzly-polar bear hybrid is a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear.

What Grizzlies Eat - Grizzly Cubs
There are an estimated 1,500 grizzly bears in the lower 48 states of the United States.

© Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com

more about grizzlies

  • Grizzly poo: Everything you ever wanted to know. Do you need to know? Well, this can be fun!
  • Are grizzlies extinct? 11 places where they are no longer found. Most animal habitats are shrinking in modern times, but here are a few places that have completely knocked grizzlies out.
  • Are there grizzlies in Colorado? Were these bears found in Colorado? The answer might surprise you.

See all 169 animals that start with G


about the author

heather ross


Heather Ross is a middle school English teacher and mother of 2 people, 2 tuxedo cats and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading homework, she loves reading and writing about all things animals!

Grizzly Bear FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are grizzlies herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores?

A grizzly is an omnivore, which means it eats plants and animals. Grizzlies love to eat berries, plants, and small and large animals. Grizzlies love fish, especially salmon, which is found in rivers in the Northwest United States, Alaska, and Canada.

What animal could kill a grizzly bear?

Humans and other bears can kill grizzlies. People kill grizzlies by poaching or illegally hunting them. Hunters can also mistake them for black bears, which are legal to hunt in the United States. When grizzlies startle humans by rummaging through trash cans or chasing food at campsites, the bears are at risk of being killed. Wolves and cougars can kill young grizzlies.

Are grizzlies dangerous?

Grizzlies are known for avoiding humans. However, they can be dangerous when threatened. When a grizzly or its cubs are threatened, the animal becomes violent and fights for protection. The grizzly's strong build, heavy body, sharp claws, and ability to run make it an animal that is as much feared as it is revered.

How fast can the Grizzlies run?

Despite their size, grizzlies can reach speeds of astonishing 35-40 mph, significantly faster than recorded full-speed sprinting humans.

To which kingdom does the grizzly bear belong?

Grizzlies belong to the animal kingdom.

What door do grizzlies belong to?

Grizzlies belong to the phylum Chordate.

Which category does a grizzly bear belong to?

Grizzlies belong to the class Mammalia.

What family do grizzlies belong to?

Grizzlies belong to the bear family.

What order do grizzlies belong to?

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Grizzlies belong to the order Carnivora.

What genus does a grizzly bear belong to?

Grizzlies belong to the genus Ursus.

What type of mulch do grizzlies have?

Grizzlies are covered with fur.

What type of habitat do grizzly bears live in?

Grizzlies live in forests and mountains.

What is the main prey of grizzly bears?

Grizzlies prey on salmon, fruit, and fish.

What are the distinguishing features of a grizzly bear?

Grizzlies have strong, powerful shoulders and huge paws.

Who are the grizzly's natural enemies?

Predators of the grizzly include humans and mountain lions.

What is the average litter size for a grizzly bear?

The average litter size for grizzlies is 2 litters.

What are some interesting facts about grizzlies?

Fewer than 10 percent of grizzly bears survive to adulthood.

What is the scientific name of the grizzly bear?

The scientific name of the grizzly bear is Ursus Arctos Horriblis.

What is the lifespan of a grizzly bear?

Grizzlies can live 15 to 25 years.

What's the Difference Between a Grizzly Bear and a Kodiak Bear?

Grizzlies are smaller than Kodiak bears. They are also located in different areas, as Kodiak bears are only found in Alaska's Kodiak Islands.

Who would win a fight between a king cobra and a grizzly bear?

The Grizzlies would win the battle against the King Cobra.

To be clear, the king cobra would definitely kill the grizzly, but there's a good chance the grizzly would kill the snake before dying. If the two animals meet at a neutral location that does not allow any ambushes, the grizzly can kill the snake outright.

Will grizzlies be reintroduced into their former habitat?

Grizzlies used to live on a much larger scale. Specifically, they roamed in California and Arizona, neither of which they can be found today. In 2019, the Arizona Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, alleging that it did not have a recovery plan to bring the bears back to their historic range. If the challenge is successful, this could lead to grizzlies around the Grand Canyon and elsewhere within the historic range.

Who would win a fight between a grizzly bear and an alligator?

The Grizzlies would win the fight against the Gators.

Although the crocodile's bite force is very strong, it is still not as powerful as a grizzly bear. The best-case scenario for an alligator is when it ambush a grizzly on land. Even in that case, the crocodile might have snapped at a leg, but it would have grabbed a quick, head-slamming claw with enough force to stun it.

Who will win the battle between the Grizzlies and Siberian Tigers?

The Siberian tiger will win the fight against the grizzly bear. An ambush carnivore, the Amur tiger is the only big cat that comes close to the grizzly in size and strength. Size isn't everything, though.

Siberian tigers are natural killers and they hunt with precision and destructive force. This combination leads us to believe that the Siberian tiger would outwit the grizzly and unleash a deadly attack that the grizzly cannot fight back.

Thanks for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the 10hunting.com editorial team.

source
  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
  3. David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Animal Encyclopedia
  7. David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) Encyclopedia of Mammals