The grizzly bear is a North American subspecies of the brown bear. These awe-inspiring giants tend to be solitary animals—with the exception of females and their cubs—but at times they do congregate. Dramatic gatherings of grizzly bears can be seen at prime Alaskan and Canadian fishing spots when the salmon run upstream for summer spawning. In this season, dozens of bears may gather to feast on the fish, craving fats that will sustain them through the long winter ahead.
It isn't always easy to distinguish a grizzly bear from a brown or black bear (it's best to check the ears, which on a grizzly are round and smaller). A grizzly's coat can be any shade from black to blond, though it's usually brown. The name "grizzly" was inspired by light tips on the fur of the bear's head and shoulders. Grizzlies are heavier than black bears, though: the males average 500 lbs; and the females average 375 lbs. When on all fours, grizzlies stand between 3.5 and 4 feet; when standing upright, they reach 6 to 7 feet.
Although a mother grizzly bear’s home range may be limited to one or two river valleys, male grizzly bears require large clusters of interconnected watersheds to survive. The large body size and subsequent food requirements to support a coastal grizzly bear is one of the reasons that large areas of undisturbed habitat is required. Coastal grizzlies rely on intact ancient forests for denning and bedding sites, thermal cover and security. But most importantly they need ancient forests for their principal food supply of plants, berries and wild salmon.
Grizzlies are highly adaptable to various habitat types: they can flourish in forests, mountains, prairies, wetlands, and even along the shore. They will dig beds in shady spots in which to sit out the heat of the day. They hibernate in the winter when food is scarce, living off stored body fat, which not only supplies energy but also keeps them warm.
All national parks in the United States and Canada, such as Banff National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park have laws and regulations in place to protect the bears. Even so, grizzlies are not always safe in parks. The primary threats to grizzly bears everywhere are human-caused mortality, habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting and unmitigated road access. Many bears die within a few hundred yards of roads and trails.
Unfortunately, the same pressures that have driven grizzly bears to the brink of extinction in the United States are threatening grizzlies in British Columbia, Canada. In the Great Bear Rainforest, habitat degradation and sport hunting are the primary concerns. The cumulative impact of sport hunting, poaching, industrial forestry, a salmon decline and the emerging threat of climate change, is cause for concern for BC’s coastal grizzly bears.
Logging road construction affects grizzly bears in various ways. Grizzlies may either be temporarily or permanently displaced from habitats near roads. Roads fragment the ecological, behavioral and physical continuity of habitat and they physically destroy habitat. Grizzly bear mortality is substantially greater in areas with roads compared to roadless areas. Logging roads also allow easy access for hunters and poachers in previously inaccessible wilderness areas.
The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust and other animal protection and conservation groups are joining forces with Coastal First Nations in a historic campaign to protect bears from cruel and unsustainable trophy hunts in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Your donation can help. You can make a difference.