The name “grizzly” technically applies to the grizzled brown to blond to white tipped fur that the bears have. Grizzlies are a subspecies of brown bear; their fur color can be brown, blond, black or a combination of these. The distinctive hump between their shoulders and long, durable claws give them added strength to dig for food, winter dens, take down prey and compete with other males. Grizzlies live up to 25 years in the wild; 40 years in captivity. Males weigh between 400 to 790 pounds, while females typically weigh between 290 to 440 pounds.
Making their home throughout the northwestern wilderness, grizzly bears can be found in both mountain ranges and lower flat lands, usually near sources of water. Grizzlies are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals depending on what is available. They will eat other large mammals such as moose, elk, caribou and deer when available. Well known for eating salmon, this abundance of protein is why specimens in Alaska and coastal regions grow much larger than their inland counterparts, who eat more fatty meats and forage for vegetation.
Grizzlies are largely solitary animals, typically only coming together for salmon runs and during breeding season. Male home ranges will often overlap several female territories, but do not overlap with competing males. Grizzlies can gain up to 400 pounds in the fall and their dormancy is triggered by fat store, not cold weather. Cubs, usually two, are born from January through March. They don’t leave their dens until May, and depending on their subspecies, will remain with their mothers for up to five years. The mother will not have more cubs until her current offspring are on their own.
Meet our Residents
- Some grizzlies weigh as much as 1,500 pounds and stand over 9 feet tall on their hind legs. Pretty impressive for an animal that is the size of a guinea pig at birth!
- A grizzly bear bite has been measured at 1160 psi (pound pressure per square inch). That’s enough to crush a bowling ball!
- The grizzly bear is the California state mammal and appears on the state flag.
Status In The Wild
From 1800 to 1975 the grizzly bear population in the lower 48 decreased from over 50,000 to between 1,400 and 1,700. Major causes of this decline include land development resulting in major deforestation and loss of habitat, predatory persecution, commercial trapping and hunting for sport. Grizzly bears have been extinct in California since the 1920s and have been classified as “threatened” in the lower 48 since 1975. Recovery efforts are underway, but progress has been slow.