AppearanceMost adult female grizzlies weigh 130–180 kg , while adult males weigh on average 180–360 kg . Average total length in this subspecies is 198 cm , with an average shoulder height of 102 cm and hindfoot length of 28 cm . Newborn bears may weigh less than 500 grams . In the Yukon River area, mature female grizzlies can weigh as little as 100 kg . One study found that the average weight for an inland male grizzly was around 272 kilograms and the average weight for a coastal male was around 408 kilograms . For a female, these average weights would be 136 kilograms inland and 227 kilograms coastal, respectively. On the other hand, an occasional huge male grizzly has been recorded which greatly exceeds ordinary size, with weights reported up to 680 kg . A large coastal male of this size may stand up to 3 metres tall on its hind legs and be up to 1.5 metres at the shoulder.
Although variable in color from blond to nearly black, grizzly bear fur is typically brown with darker legs and commonly white or blond tipped fur on the flank and back. A pronounced hump appears on their shoulders; the hump is a good way to distinguish a grizzly bear from a black bear, as black bears do not have this hump. Aside from the distinguishing hump a grizzly bear can be identified by a "dished in" profile of their face with short, rounded ears, whereas a black bear has a straight face profile and longer ears. A grizzly bear can also be identified by its rump, which is lower than its shoulders, while a black bear's rump is higher. A grizzly bear's front claws measure about 2–4 inches in length and a black bear's measure about 1–2 inches in length.
NamingIn 1963 Rausch reduced the number of North American subspecies to one, ''Ursus arctos middendorffi''...hieroglyph snipped...
Further testing of Y-chromosomes is required to yield an accurate new taxonomy with different subspecies.
Coastal grizzlies, often referred to by the popular but geographically redundant synonym of "brown bear" or "Alaskan brown bear" are larger and darker than inland grizzlies, which is why they, too, were considered a different species from grizzlies. Kodiak grizzly bears were also at one time considered distinct. Therefore, at one time there were five different "species" of brown bear, including three in North America.
DistributionBrown bears are found in Asia, Europe, and North America, giving them the widest ranges of bear species. They also inhabited North Africa and the Middle East. In North America, grizzly bears previously ranged from Alaska down to Mexico and as far east as the western shores of Hudson Bay; the species is now found in Alaska, south through much of western Canada, and into portions of the northwestern United States , extending as far south as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It is most commonly found in Canada. In Canada, there are approximately 25,000 grizzly bears occupying British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the northern part of Manitoba. An article published in 1954 suggested they may be present in the tundra areas of the Ungava Peninsula and the northern tip of Labrador-Quebec....hieroglyph snipped... In British Columbia, grizzly bears inhabit approximately 90% of their original territory. There were approximately 25,000 grizzly bears in British Columbia when the European settlers arrived. However, population size has since significantly decreased due to hunting and habitat loss. In 2003, researchers from the University of Alberta spotted a grizzly on Melville Island in the high Arctic, which is the most northerly sighting ever documented....hieroglyph snipped... In 2008, it was estimated there were 16,014 grizzly bears. Population estimates for British Columbia are based on hair-snagging, DNA-based inventories, mark-and-recapture, and a refined multiple regression model. A revised Grizzly bear count in 2012 for British Columbia was 15,075.
The Alaskan population of 30,000 individuals is the highest population of any province/state in North America. Populations in Alaska are densest along the coast, where food supplies such as salmon are more abundant. The Admiralty Island National Monument protects the densest population—1,600 bears on a 1,600-square mile island.
StatusThe grizzly bear is listed as threatened in the contiguous United States and endangered in parts of Canada. In May 2002, the Canadian Species at Risk Act listed the Prairie population of grizzly bears as extirpated in Canada. As of 2002, grizzly bears were listed as special concern under the COSEWIC registry and considered threatened under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Within the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concentrates its effort to restore grizzly bears in six recovery areas. These are Northern Continental Divide , Yellowstone , Cabinet-Yaak , Selway-Bitterroot , Selkirk , and North Cascades . The grizzly population in these areas is estimated at 750 in the Northern Continental Divide, 550 in Yellowstone, 40 in the Yaak portion of the Cabinet-Yaak, and 15 in the Cabinet portion , 105 in Selkirk region of Idaho, 10–20 in the North Cascades, and none currently in Selway-Bitterroots, although there have been sightings. These are estimates because bears move in and out of these areas, and it is therefore impossible to conduct a precise count. In the recovery areas that adjoin Canada, bears also move back and forth across the international boundary.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk areas are linked through British Columbia, a claim that is disputed. U.S. and Canadian national parks, such as Banff National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park are subject to laws and regulations designed to protect the bears.
On 9 January 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove Yellowstone grizzlies from the list of threatened and protected species. In March 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "de-listed" the population, effectively removing Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies in the Yellowstone National Park area. Several environmental organizations, including the NRDC, brought a lawsuit against the federal government to relist the grizzly bear. On 22 September 2009, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy reinstated protection due to the decline of whitebark pine tree, whose nuts are an important source of food for the bears. In 1996 the International Union for Conservation of Nature moved the grizzly bear to the lower risk "Least Concern" status on the IUCN Red List.
Farther north, in Alberta, Canada, intense DNA hair-snagging studies in 2000 showed the grizzly population to be increasing faster than what it was formerly believed to be, and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development calculated a population of 841 bears. In 2002, the Endangered Species Conservation Committee recommended that the Alberta grizzly bear population be designated as threatened due to recent estimates of grizzly bear mortality rates that indicated the population was in decline. A recovery plan released by the provincial government in March 2008 indicated the grizzly population is lower than previously believed. In 2010, the provincial government formally listed its population of about 700 grizzlies as "Threatened".
Environment Canada consider the grizzly bear to a "special concern" species, as it is particularly sensitive to human activities and natural threats. In Alberta and British Columbia, the species is considered to be at risk. In 2008, it was estimated there were 16,014 grizzly bears in the British Columbia population, which was lower than previously estimated due to refinements in the population model.
The Mexican grizzly bear is extinct.Conservation efforts have become an increasingly vital investment over recent decades, as population numbers have dramatically declined. Establishment of parks and protected areas are one of the main focuses currently being tackled to help reestablish the low grizzly bear population in British Columbia. One example of these efforts is the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary located along the north coast of British Columbia; at 44,300 hectares in size, it is composed of key habitat for this threatened species. Regulations such as limited public access, as well as a strict no hunting policy, have enabled this location to be a safe haven for local grizzlies in the area. When choosing the location of a park focused on grizzly bear conservation, factors such as habitat quality and connectivity to other habitat patches are considered.
The Refuge for Endangered Wildlife located on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver is an example of a different type of conservation effort for the diminishing grizzly bear population. The refuge is a five-acre terrain which has functioned as a home for two orphaned grizzly bears since 2001. The purpose of this refuge is to provide awareness and education to the public about grizzly bears, as well as providing an area for research and observation of this secluded species.
Another factor currently being taken into consideration when designing conservation plans for future generations are anthropogenic barriers in the form of urban development and roads. These elements are acting as obstacles, causing fragmentation of the remaining grizzly bear population habitat and prevention of gene flow between subpopulations . This, in turn, is creating a decline in genetic diversity, and therefore the overall fitness of the general population is lowered. In light of these issues, conservation plans often include migration corridors by way of long strips of "park forest" to connect less developed areas, or by way of tunnels and overpasses over busy roads. Using GPS collar tracking, scientists can study whether or not these efforts are actually making a positive contribution towards resolving the problem. To date, most corridors are found to be infrequently used, and thus genetic isolation is currently occurring, which can result in inbreeding and therefore an increased frequency of deleterious genes through genetic drift. Current data suggest female grizzly bears are disproportionately less likely than males to use these corridors, which can prevent mate access and decrease the number of offspring.
In the United States, national efforts have been made since 1982 for the recovery plan of grizzly bears. A lot of the efforts made have been through different organizations efforts to educate the public on grizzly bear safety, habits of grizzly bears and different ways to reduce human-bear conflict. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Recovery Committee is one of many organizations committed to the recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states. There are five recovery zones for grizzly bears in the lower 48 states including the North Cascades ecosystem in Washington state. The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife initiated the process of an environmental impact statement that started in the fall of 2014 to begin the recovery process of grizzly bears to the North Cascades region. A final plan and environmental impact statement was released in the spring of 2017 with a record of decision to follow.
In early March 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to withdraw Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. The population has risen from 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 in 2017, and was "delisted" in June 2017.
ReproductionExcept for females with cubs, grizzlies are normally solitary, active animals, but in coastal areas, grizzlies gather around streams, lakes, rivers, and ponds during the salmon spawn. Every other year, females produce one to four young that are small and weigh only about 450 grams at birth. A sow is protective of her offspring and will attack if she thinks she or her cubs are threatened.
Grizzly bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all terrestrial mammals in North America. This is due to numerous ecological factors. Grizzly bears do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least five years old. Once mated with a male in the summer, the female delays embryo implantation until hibernation, during which miscarriage can occur if the female does not receive the proper nutrients and caloric intake. On average, females produce two cubs in a litter and the mother cares for the cubs for up to two years, during which the mother will not mate.
Once the young leave or are killed, females may not produce another litter for three or more years, depending on environmental conditions. Male grizzly bears have large territories, up to 4,000 km2 , making finding a female scent difficult in such low population densities. Population fragmentation of grizzlies may destabilize the population from inbreeding depression. The gestation period for grizzly bears is approximately 180–250 days.
Litter size is between one and four cubs, averaging twins or triplets. Cubs are always born in the mother's winter den while she is in hibernation. Female grizzlies are fiercely protective of their cubs, being able to fend off predators as large as male bears bigger than they are in defence of the cubs. Cubs feed entirely on their mother's milk until summer comes, after which they still drink milk but begin to eat solid foods. Cubs gain weight rapidly during their time with the mother—their weight will have increased from 4.5 to 45 kg in the two years spent with the mother. Mothers may see their cubs in later years but both avoid each other.
FoodAlthough grizzlies are of the order Carnivora and have the digestive system of carnivores, they are normally omnivores: their diets consist of both plants and animals. They have been known to prey on large mammals, when available, such as moose, elk, caribou, white-tailed deer, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bison, and even black bears; though they are more likely to take calves and injured individuals rather than healthy adults. Grizzly bears feed on fish such as salmon, trout, and bass, and those with access to a more protein-enriched diet in coastal areas potentially grow larger than inland individuals. Grizzly bears also readily scavenge food or carrion left behind by other animals. Grizzly bears will also eat birds and their eggs, and gather in large numbers at fishing sites to feed on spawning salmon. They frequently prey on baby deer left in the grass, and occasionally they raid the nests of raptors such as bald eagles.
Canadian or Alaskan grizzlies are larger than those that reside in the American Rocky Mountains. This is due, in part, to the richness of their diets. In Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the grizzly bear's diet consists mostly of whitebark pine nuts, tubers, grasses, various rodents, army cutworm moths, and scavenged carcasses. None of these, however, match the fat content of the salmon available in Alaska and British Columbia. With the high fat content of salmon, it is not uncommon to encounter grizzlies in Alaska weighing 540 kg . Grizzlies in Alaska supplement their diet of salmon and clams with sedge grass and berries. In areas where salmon are forced to leap waterfalls, grizzlies gather at the base of the falls to feed on and catch the fish. Salmon are at a disadvantage when they leap waterfalls because they cluster together at their bases and are therefore easier targets for the grizzlies. Grizzly bears are well-documented catching leaping salmon in their mouths at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. They are also very experienced in chasing the fish around and pinning them with their claws. At such sites such as Brooks Falls and McNeil Falls in Alaska, big male grizzlies fight regularly for the best fishing spots. Grizzly bears along the coast also forage for razor clams, and frequently dig into the sand to seek them. During the spring and fall, directly before and after the salmon runs, berries and grass make up the mainstay of the diets of coastal grizzlies.
Inland grizzlies may eat fish too, most notably in Yellowstone grizzlies eating Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The relationship with cutthroat trout and grizzlies is unique because it is the only example where Rocky Mountain grizzlies feed on spawning salmonid fish. However, grizzly bears themselves and invasive lake trout threaten the survival of the trout population and there is a slight chance that the trout will be eliminated.
Meat, as already described, is an important part of a grizzly's diet. Grizzly bears occasionally prey on small mammals, such as marmots, ground squirrels, lemmings, and voles. The most famous example of such predation is in Denali National Park and Preserve, where grizzlies chase, pounce on, and dig up Arctic ground squirrels to eat. In some areas, grizzly bears prey on hoary marmots, overturning rocks to reach them, and in some cases preying on them when they are in hibernation. Larger prey includes bison and moose, which are sometimes taken by bears in Yellowstone National Park. Because bison and moose are dangerous prey, grizzlies usually use cover to stalk them and/or pick off weak individuals or calves. Grizzlies in Alaska also regularly prey on moose calves, which in Denali National Park may be their main source of meat. In fact, grizzly bears are such important predators of moose and elk calves in Alaska and in Yellowstone, that they may kill as many as 51 percent of elk or moose calves born that year. Grizzly bears have also been blamed in the decline of elk in Yellowstone National Park when the actual predators were thought to be gray wolves. In northern Alaska, grizzlies are a significant predator of caribou, mostly taking sick or old individuals or calves. Several studies show that grizzly bears may follow the caribou herds year-round in order to maintain their food supply. In northern Alaska, grizzly bears often encounter muskox. Despite the fact that muskox do not usually occur in grizzly habitat and that they are bigger and more powerful than caribou, predation on muskox by grizzlies has been recorded.
Grizzly bears along the Alaskan coast also scavenge on dead or washed up whales. Usually such incidents involve only one or two grizzlies at a carcass, but up to ten large males have been seen at a time eating a dead humpback whale. Dead seals and sea lions are also consumed.
Although the diets of grizzly bears vary extensively based on seasonal and regional changes, plants make up a large portion of them, with some estimates as high as 80–90%. Various berries constitute an important food source when they are available. These can include blueberries, blackberries , salmon berries , cranberries , buffalo berries , soapberries , and huckleberries , depending on the environment. Insects such as ladybugs, ants, and bees are eaten if they are available in large quantities. In Yellowstone National Park, grizzly bears may obtain half of their yearly caloric needs by feeding on miller moths that congregate on mountain slopes. When food is abundant, grizzly bears will feed in groups. For example, many grizzly bears will visit meadows right after an avalanche or glacier slide. This is due to an influx of legumes, such as ''Hedysarum'', which the grizzlies consume in massive amounts. When food sources become scarcer, however, they separate once again.
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