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Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are often recognized as a subspecies of brown bear and live in relation to other brown bears in North America. The grizzly bear is a large and compact brown bear with grayish highlights in the outer layer of fur, giving it a grayish coloration. Although the animal is not found in the wild here in Europe, it is still a creature that often features in American movies, which generates great interest in the bear. Therefore, below are ten facts that you may not have known about grizzly bears!

Grizzly bears are big and dangerous – but above all, very fast…

Grizzly bears can weigh up to 360 kilograms (793 pounds (with females usually weighing about half as much as males)) and live up to 20-25 years in the wild. If you have plans to try to outrun an aggressive grizzly bear, it’s probably time to reconsider because they can reach top speeds of up to 56 km/h (34.7 mph) – despite their size! [source]

How they probably got their name…

However, it is believed that they originally got their name from the word “grisly“, which means “fierce” or “terrifying“. Their scientific classification, “Ursus arctos horribilis“, was also named after their terrifying reputation by a naturalist in 1815. [source]

However, it is believed that they originally got their name from the word "grisly", which means "fierce" or "terrifying". Their scientific classification, "Ursus arctos horribilis", was also named after their terrifying reputation by a naturalist in 1815.

They are apex predators…

This means they are at the top of the food chain. They hunt large mammals, such as moose, deer, and even bison. Grizzly bears use their speed and strength to capture their prey. [source]

Catches salmon in large groups…

Every year, grizzly bears gather to fish for salmon swimming upstream. As many as 20 grizzly bears can be seen in one place, where they often catch salmon jumping out of the water with their paws – sometimes even directly with their mouths. [source]

Every year, grizzly bears gather to fish for salmon swimming upstream. As many as 20 grizzly bears can be seen in one place, where they often catch salmon jumping out of the water with their paws – sometimes even directly with their mouths.

But they don’t eat as much as you might think…

Despite their reputation for having a carnivorous appetite, their diet also consists of nuts, berries, fruits and leaves. They even eat small rodents. The feasting usually doesn’t start until they begin to exhibit hyperphagia (excessive hunger) and prepare for hibernation. They don’t enter true hibernation but ensure they have enough food to sustain themselves for extended periods without leaving their spot. [source]

A myth that they can’t climb trees…

It is just a long-standing myth that grizzly bears cannot climb trees. Although their weight and long claws make tree climbing difficult, it is not impossible for grizzly bears to climb vertically – for example, up a tree – provided the branches can support their weight. [source]

They love nocturnal moths…

Although grizzly bears enjoy eating various insects, moths are at the top of their menu. Researchers have observed bears willing to climb to alpine heights in Montana’s Glacier National Park to feast on these flying appetizers. It has also been documented that bears can turn over rocks and spend up to 14 hours a day in pursuit of these specific insects. During this time, they can consume up to 40,000 moths. [source]

Although grizzly bears enjoy eating various insects, moths are at the top of their menu. Researchers have observed bears willing to climb to alpine heights in Montana’s Glacier National Park to feast on these flying appetizers. It has also been documented that bears can turn over rocks and spend up to 14 hours a day in pursuit of these specific insects. During this time, they can consume up to 40,000 moths.

Classified as cannibals…

In addition to being omnivorous, grizzly bears can also be classified as cannibals. They have been observed eating the dead bodies of black bears in Canada. A study on bear feeding habits published in 2017 recorded a 10-year-old male eating a 6-year-old brown bear. It was a female that the older male feasted upon. [source]

They occasionally mate with polar bears…

In parts of Alaska and Canada where grizzly bears and polar bears share habitat, rare observations are made of what observers call grolar bears” or “pizzlies“. With large heads and light-colored fur, they are hybrid bears born from the mating of grizzly bears and polar bears. Usually, it is male grizzly bears that venture into these areas and find female polar bears to mate with. Scientists believe that climate change is one reason why the two species meet. In the image below, you can see a so-called Prizzly. [source]

In parts of Alaska and Canada where grizzly bears and polar bears share habitat, rare observations are made of what observers call grolar bears" or "pizzlies". With large heads and light-colored fur, they are hybrid bears born from the mating of grizzly bears and polar bears. Usually, it is male grizzly bears that venture into these areas and find female polar bears to mate with. Scientists believe that climate change is one reason why the two species meet.

Take good care of their cubs…

Females usually do not have their first cubs until they are between four and seven years old. Pregnancy lasts for 180 to 266 days, and the cubs are born blind and weigh only about 0.5 kilograms (1.1 pounds) at birth. The mother stays with her cubs in a secure den until they are old enough to explore the world, which is usually a few months old. The mother then continues to feed and protect her cubs for two to three years and does not give birth to any more until the current cubs have left her side. [source]


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