Physical Characteristics of Grizzly Bears

Grizzly Bears' Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics of Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)

Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) exhibit a variety of physical characteristics that contribute to their adaptability and survival in diverse environments.

Size of Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears are large mammals, with males being significantly larger than females. Adult males can weigh between 600 to 1,500 pounds (272 to 680 kilograms), while females typically weigh between 200 to 700 pounds (91 to 318 kilograms).

Grizzly Bear Coloration

Grizzly bear fur can vary widely in color, ranging from light blonde or cinnamon to dark brown or nearly black.

The fur on their hump and shoulders often has a grizzled appearance, with silver-tipped hairs, which is one reason they are called "grizzly" bears.

Head and Face of a Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bears have a distinctive concave facial profile, with a prominent hump of muscle on their shoulders.

Their snout is relatively short compared to some other bear species, and they have a strong jaw equipped with powerful teeth for various types of feeding.

Grizzly Bears' Ears

Grizzly bears have rounded ears, which are proportionate to the size of their head. Their keen sense of hearing helps them detect sounds in their environment.


Grizzly bears have small, round eyes with a keen sense of vision, particularly adapted for detecting movement.

Their color vision is thought to be similar to that of humans.

Grizzly Bear Claws

Grizzly bears have long and powerful claws, particularly on their front limbs. These claws are adapted for digging, tearing, and grasping.

The claws are non-retractable and are used for various activities, including digging for roots, accessing insect nests, and catching fish.

Paws of Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bear paws are large, broad, and plantigrade, meaning they walk on the soles of their feet, like humans.

The pads on their paws provide traction, and their foot structure allows them to walk long distances and traverse various terrains.


Grizzly bears have a short, stubby tail, measuring only a few inches in length.

Grizzly Bear Muscle Mass

Grizzly bears are known for their impressive muscle mass, particularly in the shoulders and hump. This muscle mass contributes to their strength and power, essential for activities such as digging, climbing, and foraging.

Grizzly Bear Adaptations for Hibernation

Grizzly bears undergo physiological changes to prepare for hibernation. During this period, they may accumulate a layer of fat and enter a state of dormancy to conserve energy.

These physical characteristics collectively contribute to the grizzly bear's ability to survive and thrive in various ecosystems, from dense forests and alpine meadows to coastal areas. Their adaptations make them formidable omnivores and apex predators in their respective habitats.

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Grizzly Bears in Canada

Wild Grizzly Bears

Grizzly Bear - Brown Bear Species

Genetic science reveals the grizzly to be a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos). In North America, "brown bear" is also known as "grizzly bear", being all the same species, Ursus arctos.

Coastal grizzly bears are larger and darker than inland grizzlies. They were considered a different species from grizzlies at one time. Kodiak grizzly bears also were considered a distinct species. At that time there were five different species of brown bear, including these three in North America.

Grizzly Bear Size

Female grizzlies usually weigh 130–180 kg (290–400 lb), while adult male grizzly bears weigh on average 180–360 kg (400–790 lb). Female Grizzly Bear average weights would be 136 kg (300 lb) inland and 227 kg (500 lb) coastal. One study found that the average weight for an inland male grizzly bear was around 272 kilograms (600 pounds), and the average weight for a coastal male was around 408 kg (899 lb). Newborn grizzly bear cubs uausally weigh less than 500 grams (1.1 lb).

Grizzly Bear Fur Color

Although grizzlies color can be blond to nearly black, grizzly bear fur is usually brown with darker legs and commonly white or blond tipped fur on the flank and back.

Grizzly Bear Physical Characteristics

A large muscular hump exists on adult grizzly bear shoulders. Aside from the distinguishing hump, grizzly bears also have "dished in" face profiles with short, rounded ears.

Grizzly bear's rear end is lower than its shoulders, where as a black bear's rump is higher than its shoulders.

Grizzly bear's front claws are usually 2–4 inches in length, where as a black bear's claws measure about 1–2 inches in length.

Grizzly Bear Hibernation

Grizzly bears hibernate from 5 to 7 months each year unless they live in warm climates where they may not hibernate at all. During hibernation, female grizzly bears give birth and their offspring will consume milk from their mother for the remainder of the hibernation period.

Grizzly bears must consume an immense amount of food to prepare for hibernation. Bears can gain hundreds of pounds during the period just before hibernation called hyperphagia. In this period, grizzlies may consume up to 10 times the amount of calories compared to Spring and Summer.

Bears do not eat during hibernation. Grizzly bears do not defecate or urinate throughout the entire hibernation period. Male grizzly bears usually come out of hibernation in early to mid-March, while females emerge in April or early May.

Bears often wait for a snowstorm as a trigger to enter their den. This behavior reduces the chances that predators will find the den. Grizzly Bear dens are typically at elevations above 1,800 m (5,900 ft) on north-facing slopes.

Inland or Rocky Mountain grizzlies spend nearly half of their life in dens while coastal grizzly bears spend less time in dens. If food is very plentiful year round, grizzly bears may not hibernate at all.

Grizzly Bear Reproduction

Grizzly bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all land mammals in North America. Grizzly bears do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least five years old. After mating, females delay embryo implantation until hibernation, during which miscarriage can occur if the female is not in good enough condition. Female grizzly bears usually produce two cubs in a litter, with the mother caring for the cubs for up to two years before mating again.

Grizzlies are normally solitary animals, but in coastal areas, grizzlies gather around streams, lakes, rivers, and ponds during the salmon spawn. Females (sows) produce one to four cubs that are small and weigh only about 450 grams (1 lb) at birth. Unfortunately, most grizzly bear cubs do not make it through their first year due to many factors.

Grizzly Bear Lifespan

The average lifespan for a grizzly boar is estimated at 22 years, with sows living slightly longer at 26.

Females live longer than males due to their less dangerous life, as they do not fight during mating season like boars do. The oldest known wild inland grizzly was about 34 years old(Alaska), with the oldest known coastal bear being 39. Captive grizzlies have been known to live as long as 44 years.