The Grizzly Bear that is native to North America is also known as the brown bear or silver tip bear. Grizzlies are listed as a threatened species throughout America and actually endangered in Canada. These magnificent creatures cannot be allowed to disappear from our planet therefore we must do all we can to help them survive. Huge efforts are being made in the US to restore the grizzly numbers to the total they were previously, which is great news all round.
The name “grizzly” was given to the brown bear because of its frizzy hair that looks grizzled. Male bears can weigh anything up to eight hundred pounds whereas the female is half that at around four hundred and twenty pounds. The young of the grizzly in complete contrast can weigh as little as one pound when they are born which gives some idea of how much they grow and how quickly.
Most grizzly bears are brown in colour but there are exceptions in the species that have a paler hue with some being almost blonde in colour. Grizzly bears also have a huge hump on their shoulders. This distinguishes them from black bears that do not have this hump.
The Habitat of the Grizzly
Grizzly Bears can be found in a number of locations in different countries including Europe, North America and Asia. In North America grizzly bears can only be found in Alaska, Western Canada and parts of the US, whereas in times gone by they used to be found in Places as far apart as Alaska and Mexico. The last grizzly to be seen and shot in California was back in 1922. These bears can live up to thirty years old out in the wild, while hunting and other pursuits have seen a fall in the number of grizzly bears overall.
Grizzly bears actually don’t reproduce young as often or as in many numbers as their counterparts. This could partly be due to the fact that it takes five years for a grizzly to physically mature enough to breed. Another reason is that although the female may mate in the summer the embryo created does not implant until she hibernates some months later. In the time that elapses if the female does not manage to eat enough food she may end up miscarrying.
Most litters contain two cubs only, with the female playing the mother role for at least two years while the gestation period can be anything from around two hundred days and up. While the female is playing this role she will not mate with any other male. Depending on the environment she finds herself in, once the cubs leave, the female may not mate for another few years making it a huge gap between litters. Lastly it isn’t so easy for males to find a mate as they cover vast amounts of area in their search (1,500 square miles).
Grizzly bears eat both vegetation and meat so have a mixed diet of sorts. They will hunt out food and think nothing of attacking moose, sheep, bison, elk or deer and in some cases if desperate will even attack black bears! Bears will also feed on fish if they live in coastal areas eating trout or salmon plus are not unduly perturbed about scavenging food that has been left by other animals.
Depending on what and how much grizzlies eat affects how big they grow. Typically Alaskan or Canadian bears will grow much larger than American bears as their diet is much richer in protein and nutrients. Bears such as the ones that live in parkland areas survive on vegetation such as nuts, grasses plus the odd rat or mouse. Most grizzlies do however make their diet up from vegetation eating berries, while insects’ ants and bees are consumed also.
Bears will feed together when there is plenty of food around but if it is scarce then the bears will go their own way to find food becoming much more territorial. Bears typically will feed like mad gaining four hundred pounds in preparation for winter months or hibernation, although not all grizzlies hibernate as it depends on where their habitat is, what they have eaten and how much weight they have gained. Grizzly bears have a great sense of smell and can detect food for miles. Their noses are more sensitive than a blood hounds nose when it comes to smelling food which is amazing!
Under normal circumstances it is inadvisable to approach a grizzly bear. This is merely common sense if we think logically about it. These bears are considered more aggressive than other species especially when they are looking after their young. Grizzlies will make a stand if approached to defend their territory as due to their enormous size clambering up a tree to safety is not an option. Females are responsible for most attacks and injuries or even deaths as they will become extremely aggressive when protecting their young.
Generally grizzly bears will go out of their way to avoid human contact. They do not consider humans as food and will ignore their presence as much as possible. It is only if they feel under threat that they will attack. It is best to cower down low if approached by a bear as this is taking a submissive position assuring the bear that he is boss. After all we are the ones encroaching on the bear’s habitat and therefore we should take this into account and allow the bear space to go on with his business.
For more information on the protection of animals in the wild visit the WWF website.