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The grizzly bear's range covers large portions of northwestern Canada and Alaska.

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The grizzly bear is the second largest land carnivore in North America.

Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis
Average weight: 250 kg–350 kg (male)
125 kg–175 kg (female)
Average height: 1 m (on all fours)
Average length: 1.8 m
Average lifespan: 15-25 years
A grizzly bear stares out from the British Columbia forest floor.

About

Biology

The grizzly bear has a strong, heavy body. One of the grizzly’s characteristic features is the large shoulder hump that supports its massive front legs. This, along with its extremely long front claws and concave facial profile, helps distinguish it from the black bear.

The grizzly bear’s fur is usually darkish brown but can vary from ivory yellow to black. Its back and shoulders are covered with long hairs that are often white-tipped, giving the bear its “grizzled” appearance. Its legs and feet tend to be darker in colour.

Despite its impressive size, the grizzly bear has been known to run at speeds of up to 55 kilometres per hour over short distances. It has a well-developed sense of smell, and its eyesight is similar to that of a human.

Habitat and behaviour

The grizzly’s habitat can range from dense forest to alpine meadows and arctic tundra. Although primarily solitary animals, grizzly bears sometimes congregate where food is plentiful, such as salmon streams, and they also gather during the mating period in June and July. It has no predators, other than humans.

Contrary to popular belief, the grizzly bear is not a true hibernator in winter. Its body temperature may drop a few degrees and its respiration may slow slightly, but it can remain active all winter. If the bear is in a den and is disturbed, it can emerge at any time.

Although it is considered a carnivore, the grizzly bear is actually omnivorous, eating both meat and vegetation. It is an opportunistic feeder. It devours mammals, carrion and spawning salmon when they are available but relies mainly on vegetation. In fact, plants make up 80 to 90 percent of the grizzly’s diet. It consumes a variety of berries to build up fat deposits, which help it survive the winter months, when it can lose up to 20 percent of its body weight. The grizzly bear also forages for food and garbage left by humans, particularly at campsites and dumps.

Range

The grizzly bear has a home range in which it travels throughout the year in search of both food and mates. Bear movement within the home range is further dictated by the annual cycle of vegetation.

The grizzly bear has the greatest distribution of any species of bear because it occupies a wide variety of habitats. It is found in Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta and, in reduced numbers, in the northwestern United States.

As human populations grow and occupy the grizzly bear’s territory, its range continues to shrink.