Bear Basics: Quick Facts About Bruins

Get a taste of North America's bears, their varying, interesting lifestyles and learn how to tell them apart.

The grizzly bear and Alaska brown bear are different versions of the same species, Ursus arctos. The prominent humps on their shoulders and long claws distinguish these bears from black bears.

Grizzlies grow 6 to 8 feet long and weigh 500-800 pounds, though a few big fellows might weigh even more. Brown bears are huge, with some big boars weighing 800-1,200 pounds, and a few getting even bigger than that.

Grizzlies and brown bears eat what they want. True omnivores, they’ll forage for berries, roots and grasses. But they're hunters, too, so elk, moose, sheep, deer and even livestock (which gets grizzlies into scuffles with the ranching community) are on the menu. They’ll dig up marmots, ground squirrels and other burrowing animals. Of course, brown bears are famous for their love of salmon when the fish are making their spawning runs.

A black bear might be black, brown, cinnamon-colored or even blond, depending on where you find it, and that could be anywhere across Alaska, Canada and the northern states, as well as the coastal northwest United States and the Rockies. So color alone doesn’t always work as a distinguishing point, because many black bears aren’t black at all. The non-black bears primarily inhabit the far western reaches of this range.

An adult boar will weigh 200-500 pounds or more, depending on his age and how much forage is available. A sow will typically weigh 150-250 pounds.

Bears in general have decent vision, but their sense of smell and hearing ability is extraordinary. They are wary and elusive, making them difficult to find in the wilderness habitats they call home.

Bonus Balck Bear Video:

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