Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
The grizzly bear's range covers large portions of northwestern Canada and Alaska.

Did you know?

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.

Our changing understanding

Early reports on the grizzly bear in Canadian Geographic in the 1970s noted that the bear was plentiful in western North America until the mid-1800s. From that point on, its numbers began to decrease in areas of human encroachment and held steady in the remote, untouched wilderness regions in which the large carnivore thrives. There was a sense that something should be done, but no concrete plan of what.

Perhaps protect them in national parks?

Twenty-five years later, the magazine profiled the deteriorating state of grizzly bears in Canada’s first national park, Banff. Protection in parks appears not to be working as well as once envisioned, partly because the bears need such large ranges — anywhere from 500 to 2,000 square kilometres — and also because an increasing number of bears are becoming habituated to humans. This often proves deadly for grizzlies that approach people for food. They are soon termed “nuisance bears” and must be relocated or killed.

A decade ago, Canadian Geographic reported on the use of wildlife overpasses that span the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park. The two-million-dollar walkways offer a safer way for animals such as grizzly bears to move around the park and beyond, yet the overpasses are still a subject of debate and remain far from a cure-all to Alberta’s faltering grizzly bear population.

The most recent articles in the magazine, however, focus on healthier bear populations in northern British Columbia and the Yukon and show a changing appreciation for the massive carnivore, with people now going to observe the grizzly rather than hunt it.