Neighborhood Critters – Grizzly Bears

By Jamie Higgins


Grizzly bears are candidates to be removed from the endangered species list due to their growing population. They have also received attention lately for seemingly brazen appearances in human communities. Despite their reputations as fiercely aggressive animals, Grizzlies are actually solitary creatures and normally avoid humans whenever possible.

Description: The Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) is a subspecies of the North American brown bear with a distinctive hump on the shoulders and long claws about the length of human fingers. Coat color varies from very light cream to brown to black, and the long hairs on their back and shoulders often have white tips giving a “grizzled” appearance.  Grizzlies weigh between 350-600 pounds and can run 40 miles per hour. Grizzlies breed in early May through mid-July and have litters of one to three cubs that remain with their mothers two to four years.

Habitat:  Grizzly bears are found in a variety of habitats, from dense forests, to subalpine meadows and arctic tundra. In North America, grizzlies are found in western Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

Diet: Grizzly bears are omnivores meaning that they eat both vegetation and animals. Their diet varies depending on what foods are available in that particular season or habitat.

Getting Along:Human encounters with bears of all types increase as the suburbs expand into wildlife habitat and become even more frequent when environmental conditions create food or water shortages. Those who choose to live in bear country must be prepared for the occasional bear visitor.

Never approach a bear to try to drive him off. Instead, make as much noise and look as big as possible. Your property will be less attractive if you invest in bear-proof garbage containers, rinse food cans and wrappers before disposal, clean and deodorize garbage cans periodically and leave trash cans at the curb as short a time as possible. In the yard, do not leave groceries or animal feed in your car, harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe and promptly collect fruit that falls, only provide bird feeders during the coldest months, place your garden in the open, keep outdoor barbecue grills clean and away from the house when not in use, and don’t feed pets outdoors.

There is a saying that “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Do not let bears find food around your home, or they will be labeled “nuisances” and likely pay with their lives.

References: Defenders of Wildlife,, Humane Society of the United States


Did you know?

Grizzly Bears: Biologically Designed To Conserve Energy
Grizzly Bears conserve their energy by hibernating in the winter when food resources are scarce. Instead of wasting energy foraging in severe weather, grizzlies spend 5-8 months per year in a deep sleep using up food eaten in the fall that was stored as body fat. Their heavy fur and the snow cover outside their dens insulates them from cold winter temperatures.

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