Common name: Grizzly bear
Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis
Group name: Sleuth or sloth
Average weight: 150 to 400 kilograms
Average height: One metre at shoulder
COSEWIC Status: No status
Did you know?
The ends of the hairs on grizzly bears’ flanks, backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a “grizzled” appearance, hence the species’ name.
Physical characteristics and behaviour
Grizzly bears are the second largest land carnivore in North America. They can be distinguished from other bears by their large shoulder humps, which support their massive front legs, their extremely long front claws, and their large heads. Grizzly bears’ fur is usually dark brown, but can also range in colour from blonde to black.
Grizzly bears are solitary animals. Individual bears have a home range, but these may overlap and are not fiercely defended. Their habitat can range from dense forest to alpine meadow to Arctic tundra. Contrary to popular belief, grizzly bears do not truly hibernate in winter. They do go into a state of lengthy and deep sleep, but can wake up from time to time.
Despite their large size, grizzly bears have been known to run at speeds of 55 kilometres per hour!
Although grizzly bears are usually thought of as carnivores, they are actually omnivorous. They will eat small mammals and spawning salmon when they are available, but rely mainly on vegetation for daily sustenance. Grass, nuts, seeds and berries actually make up 80 to 90 per cent of a grizzly’s diet.
Habitat and distribution
Grizzly bears have a very wide distribution because they are able to survive in a diverse range of habitats. The majority of grizzlies in Canada are found in British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta, with smaller populations in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.