Brown bears can range in color from blond to black, with pale tipped hairs that give the animal a grizzled appearance. They have a concave or "dish-shaped" face. Their paws are black or brownish in color with wrinkled skin on the pad. They have a very distinguishing shoulder hump that is actually a mass of muscle which enables them to dig and use their paws as a striking force. The claws are long and curved and used to dig up roots and bulbs of plants as well as excavate den sites.
Brown bears are considered carnivores, although they can be omnivorous. They will feed on moose, elk, mountain goats and sheep, salmon and trout. They will also eat berries, white bark pine nuts, roots, bulbs of plants, and ground dwelling rodents. They will locate caches of food stored by animals such as squirrels to eat. With their excellent sense of smell, grizzlies can locate carrion from miles away and will readily feed on it. The location of the bear and the food source available determines the bears major food intake.
Habitat / Distribution
North America is currently home to an estimated 30,000 brown bears in Alaska, 20,000 in Canada, and 800-1,000 in the lower 48 states. Brown bears will occupy a variety of habitats, from desert edges to high mountain forests. One main habitat requirement is an area of forested land or dense shrub cover in which it can shelter by day.
Reproduction / Social System
Brown bears reproduce slowly compared to other terrestrial mammals. Females rarely breed before the age of four and typically become pregnant once every three years. They breed from May to July, however, due to delayed implantation of the egg in the uterus, the embryo does not start to develop until late November or December. The female gives birth in late January or early February, usually to one or two cubs, sometimes three and rarely four. The cubs usually spend 2.5-3.5 years with their mother before she or a prospective suitor chases them away so she can mate again. Grizzly bears can live 20+ years in the wild and have been known to live up to 50 years in captivity.
Brown bears are immense bears that can be 6.6 to 9.2 feet in length. Males can weigh 350-975 lbs. and females can weigh 175-450 lbs. Adult bears stand about 3.5 feet high at the shoulder. The size of the bear varies depending on the location and food source available.