Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada
The Grizzly Bear – A Canadian Icon

The Grizzly Bear – A Canadian Icon

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Valerie Assinewe Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Valerie Assinewe. This month's calendar photo is of a Grizzly Bear in Kananaskis country. In myth, in Indigenous tradition and in popular culture, few mammals loom as large as this month’s featured species, the magnificent Grizzly Bear. Here is some information about this iconic animal. Where do they live? The Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), a subspecies of the brown bear, inhabits western Canada.Image of a Grizzly Bear What do they look like? One of the largest of living carnivores, Brown Bears are 1-3 m in length from head to rump. They are 90-150 cm tall at the shoulder and they range in weight from 80-600 kg. On average, adult males are 8-10% larger than females. An adult Grizzly Bear standing upright on its hind legs is roughly the height of a basketball net and can have the weight of a Toyota Corolla. Grizzly Bears are extremely strong and have good endurance; they can kill a cow with one blow, outrun a horse, outswim an Olympian and drag a dead elk uphill. What do they eat? During warmer months, Grizzly Bears eat a massive amount of food so they can live off body fat during the winter. They may consume 40 kg of food each day, gaining over 1 kg/day of body weight. As omnivores, grizzlies will eat anything nutritious they can find, gorging on nuts, fruit, leaves, roots, fungi, insects and a variety of animals including salmon and other fish, rodents, sheep and elk. Their diet varies depending on what foods are available for the season, and consequently they will eat domestic animals, carrion and garbage. In the fall, as temperatures cool and food becomes scarcer, grizzlies dig dens in the sides of hills. The bears settle in their dens to hibernate for the winter. This deep sleep allows the grizzlies to conserve energy. Their heart rate slows from 40 beats/min to 8; and in case you’re wondering, they do not defecate or urinate during hibernation. How do they reproduce? Female bears have their first young when they are 5-7 years old, and typically have litters of 1-3 cubs. The young are born during January or February inside the overwintering den. At birth, the cubs are less than 22 cm long and weigh about 400 g. They gain weight rapidly and weigh about 8 kg when they emerge in the spring. The cubs learn from their mothers and stay with them for 2-4 years. As a result, female bears are only able to reproduce every three or four years. Grizzly Bears live an average of 20 years, although individuals as old as 34 have been recorded. Image of a Grizzly female and cubBlack vs Brown Bear It is not as simple as a black versus brown: hair colour is, in fact, the least reliable identifier. “Black” Bears can be black, blue-black, dark brown, brown, cinnamon or even white. Grizzly Bears, likewise, may range in colour, from black to blond. Similarly, size is also not a reliable identifier even though Grizzly Bears are, on average, significantly larger than Black Bears. Size varies with the age of the animal and the season. How can you tell? The following are the best indicators:

  • Grizzly Bears have a pronounced shoulder hump, which the Black Bear lacks.
  • Grizzly Bears have a concave or “dished” facial profile, whereas Black Bears have a straight face profile.
  • Grizzly Bears have smaller, more rounded ears. Black Bears have larger, longer, more erect, and pointed ears.
  • The Grizzly Bear have much larger claws than the Black Bear: 5-10 cm compared to 3.8 cm front claws, respectively.
As people and the Grizzly Bear interact more, remember that the bear will only attack if cornered, wounded or protecting their cubs. Wildlife officials advise that the best way to avoid a bear encounter is to make noise while hiking and carry bear spray. Habitat loss due to logging, development and mining has affected the Grizzly Bear in northwestern United States, and as a result, the Grizzly Bear is listed as threatened in the U.S.A. In Canada, human activity is also affecting the grizzly population. You can do your part by contributing to efforts to protect the habitat of Grizzly Bears, and through your ongoing and valued support to the many conservation initiatives of Nature Canada.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!

5 facts about Grizzly Bears to bear in mind

5 facts about Grizzly Bears to bear in mind

150x150_asimardThis blog was written by writing intern Amanda Simard. This month’s calendar photo features a mother Grizzly Bear and her cub in the Khutze Inlet, BC. How much do you know about the Grizzly Bear? Here are 5 facts about the mammal you may not have known!

Grizzly Bear Description

Common name: Grizzly Bearimage of a Grizzly Bear Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis Habitat: Grizzlies are adaptable and their habitat ranges from dense forests to subalpine meadows, open plains and arctic tundra. Lifespan: 20 to 30 years in the wild Size: height between 1.5 and 2.5 m; weight between 100 and 270 kg Description: Grizzlies are typically dark brown, though their fur can range from light cream to black and is often white tipped. They have concave faces, a hump on their back, and long claws.

Fact 1: The Grizzly Bear’s scientific name translates to “horrible northern bear” or “terrifying northern bear.”

“Grizzly” also resembles the word “grisly,” meaning horrifying. However, the name more likely comes from the word “grizzled” which refers to hair streaked with gray, much like the Grizzly’s white-tipped fur.

Fact 2: Grizzly Bears can hibernate up to 7 months; talk about a long nap!

Before you ask; bears don’t eat, defecate, or urinate during this time.

[one_third]image of a Grizzly Bear and her cubs[/one_third] [two_third_last]Fact 3: Grizzly Bears are slow reproducing land mammals.

Female Grizzlies first reproduce when they reach 5 to 8 years of age. The mating season is between May and July, though the female’s body delays implantation until November or December. At that time, implantation only happens if she has enough body fat to carry her pregnancy through hibernation. Including this delay, the gestation period lasts 6 to 9 months. Litters can have up to 4 cubs, though they are usually of 2 or 3. Mothers stay with their cubs for about 3 years, avoiding male Grizzlies during this time. As a result, females only reproduce every 3 to 5 years. [/two_third_last]

Fact 4: The best approach to bear safety? Avoid bears.

This may seem intuitive but the safest way to interact with a bear, for both you and the bear, is to avoid doing so. Here are some tips for camping in bear territory:
  • Make noise. Clap, sing or talk loudly—bear bells are not enough. Let bears know you are there, they would rather avoid you, too!
  • Keep campsites free of attractants
  • Stick to official trails
  • Watch for bear signs—tracks, droppings, torn-up logs or disturbed rocks—and leave the area if fresh signs are found
  • Travel in large groups
  • Keep dogs on a leash—or at home
  • Leave any area in which you find a large dead animal—and alert the site staff
Before going into bear territory, it is always best to read up on bear safety.

Fact 5: Destruction of habitats is the main threat to Grizzly Bear survival, followed by highway and railroad mortalities.

Individuals can help protect bears by simply giving them their space. Bear habitats are considered secure when bears can go about their business with low risk of human-related disturbances. Campers and wilderness explorers should avoid disturbing the environment, and should respect official trails and signage. You can also help by contributing to Grizzly Bear habitat protection initiatives, and through your ongoing and valued support to the many conservation initiatives of Nature Canada. To learn more, check out our endangered species profile about Grizzly Bears. Acknowledgements: Parks Canada and Defenders of Wildlife
Email Signup

Join the Movement!

Sign up to learn how you can protect the nature you love.

The Bear-Truth: Yogi Bear

The Bear-Truth: Yogi Bear

[caption id="attachment_28767" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Evan Dudley Evan Dudley, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Evan Dudley. Whether you are young or old, the chances are high that you are familiar with the popular cartoon of Yogi Bear. His wild adventures and shenanigans throughout Jellystone Park have delighted us for many years but the mystery remains: is this lovable bear a Black Bear or a Grizzly Bear? Nature Canada seeks to shed some light on this unidentified, furry comedian.

Defining Features


First let’s look at the place he calls home, Jellystone Park. Now although Jellystone is a fictional park created by the animators, it is widely believed that it is based off of Yellowstone National Park (located mainly in Wyoming.) Due to the fact that the park is home to the Grizzly and Black Bear, we won’t be able to use location as a determinant. [caption id="attachment_28771" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of yogi the bear Is Yogi a Black or Grizzly Bear?[/caption]


When we look at the population of each bear in Yellowstone, with the Grizzly Bear of a population ranging from 280-610, and the Black Bear ranging from 500-650, it does appear that the odds slightly tilt towards the Black Bear.


Let’s look then at Yogi’s appearance. In the animated series Yogi Bear is presented as having a light brown coat. Now although the grizzly presents a similar feature, it is not uncommon to see a Black Bear with a similar tone of brown (despite what the name suggests.)


Consider Yogi’s diet.  In the animated series, Yogi is known for his love of “pic-a-nic” baskets, which is a constant theme of the series. However, both the Black Bear and Grizzly Bear are known to scavenge for food, with their diets being fairly similar. Another stalemate it appears.


Both the Grizzly Bear and Black Bear are also known to walk on their hind legs, which appear to be Yogi’s preferred way of travel, however it is known that the Grizzly Bears do so more regularly.


Another determining feature is Yogi Bear’s size. The Black Bear and the Grizzly Bear differ greatly when looking at adult males. An adult male Grizzly Bear averages around 8 ft tall standing up, and weighs around 270kg. An adult Black Bear averages 5-6 ft tall and weighs in around 150 kg, a great deal smaller. When comparing Yogi to the Yellowstone Park Ranger (Ranger Smith), who appears to be an adult male of average height (6 ft), Yogi bear falls further into the Black Bear category. Image of a Black BearImage of a Grizzly female and cub


The last and possibly the most important feature is based on Yogi’s iconic catchphrase, “Smarter than the average bear.” It is known that the Grizzly Bear is smarter than the average Black Bear, mainly due to its larger brain size. With this in mind we can make the argument that Yogi bear could very well be a Grizzly Bear despite his size difference.


A toss up. A strong case could be put forth for both species of bears and maybe that is the way the animators imagined him. Perhaps Yogi Bear was never meant to fit into one particular category or species, this could be the reason animators never confirmed which species he is based on. If you have an opinion one-way or the other we would love to hear from you! Comment below or complete our quick poll below to vote on what bear Yogi could be! Don’t forget that August is Grizzly Bear month here at Nature Canada, please help us protect these beautiful creatures and their habitat.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!


A magical photo from a magical trip

“This was taken in the Great Bear Rainforest of BC, en route back to Bella Bella by sailboat. We saw this magnificent Grizzly foraging in the grass, and got into the zodiac to go to shore, where we promptly hung ourselves up on the rocks. The Grizzly knew we were there, but paid us scant attention, probably thinking, “Foolish humans, getting hung up on the rocks as the tide runs out!” and giving us looks of embarrassment for our inability to get our zodiac going. The entire trip was truly magical.”
Catherine Fox's great photo of this beautiful Grizzly Bear was selected as one of the top photos of Nature Canada's 75th Anniversary Photo Contest. We have Catherine, and our 45,000+ members from all over Canada to thank for submitting such amazing photography of the wild areas and wildlife all around us. In the coming months, we will be unveiling a monthly photo contest where more Members can share their nature moments with us. Stay tuned. [dropcap style="default, circle, box, book"]Y[/dropcap]ou too can become a Member of Nature Canada and help serve as a voice for nature in protecting Canada's natural beauty and habitats. An annual gift of $50.00 welcomes you as a Nature Canada Member - but more importantly, helps protect the nature areas we as Canadians love and hold dear. [callout title="Be a voice for nature" button="Join" link="" buttoncolor="white, yellow, orange, red, blue, green, gray, black, alternative-1, alternative-2, alternative-3" target="_blank or _self"]Become a Nature Canada Member[/callout]

Be Bear Aware

Be Bear Aware

Fall is my favourite season of the year. When bright leaves litter the trails, and a cool breeze passes through the valleys, there is nothing more I’d rather do than head out for a good long hike in the back-country. Though Canada’s beauty truly shines through in autumn, this time of year requires an added bit of caution when trekking in bear territory. Every Canadian nature-lover, whether veteran or rookie, should brush up on bear safety every once in a while, so before you venture out this fall, why not re-educate yourself a bit. While unwanted bear encounters are rare, some variation of the “ursine” genus can be found from the island of Newfoundland, across Canada to Vancouver Island, and from the northern reaches of the Arctic, to the forests of Saskatchewan. It’s estimated that there are close to 1 million black bears, and around 60 thousand grizzly bears in North America. While there are many bear sightings each year, an absolutely miniscule percentage develop into an injurious encounter. This should quell any irrational fear of the mythical, bloodthirsty, human-hunting bears of the wilderness. However, everyone should respect their space, and their habitat at all times. For the most part, it can be said that bears have no interest in humans, and this expectation should be respected – keep your distance. [separator headline="h2" title="Be Bear Aware"]

  • When hiking, biking or trail-running, be sure to make noise to reduce the chances of surprising a bear. If they hear you coming, they will usually leave the area.
  • Stay away from dead animals. Bears can smell food sources like this kilometers away.
  • Look out for bear signs: paw tracks, marked/torn-up trees, overturned rocks etc.
  • When possible, travel in groups of 3 or more.
  • Keep small children close by, and pets leashed.
  • When camping in the back-country, setup camp in an open, more visible area. Make sure that your sleeping quarters are at least 50m downwind from your cooking/washing area. Store all food and scented items in a bear-proof cache (strung up, or bear-proofed containers).
  • If you spot a bear in the distance, do not approach the bear, and make a wide detour around it’s area, or head in the opposite direction. Do not run, but slowly back away until out of sight.
[caption id="attachment_17497" align="aligncenter" width="960"]tidal pools by Stuart O'Brien During low-tide, bears love to search in tidal pools like these for food. Photo by Stuart O'Brien[/caption] [separator headline="h2" title="Common bear behaviour in the fall"]
  • More commonly found near rivers, lakes and streams.
  • More defensive of food sources. If a bear is feeding, leave the area.
  • Increased chance of predacious attacks due to desperation and starvation.
  • Increased chance of bears venturing further, and into new areas in search of food sources.
[separator headline="h2" title="The two major types of potentially dangerous bear encounters"] [separator headline="h3" title="Defensive encounter"]
  • The bear has likely been startled, or surprised by your presence. The bear may be defending a food source, or it’s young.
  • The bear may slowly approach you. It may make woofing, barking or snorting noises. Sometimes the bear will keep it’s head low, bobbing it up and down.
  • Black Bears will usually only false-charge. Retreat to safety if possible.
  • A defensive attack from a Grizzly bear is the only time when one should attempt to “play dead”.
  • Defensive attacks are usually just a presentation of dominance, and if you drop, laying belly down, with hands crossed behind the head and neck, the bear will likely stop attacking. It has proved it’s dominance, and may leave the area. Do not get up and leave until you are sure it is out of sight.
[separator headline="h3" title="Predatory encounter"]
  • A very rare situation, the bear has likely stalked you, is following you, and is treating you as prey. His or her focus is transfixed on you.
  • Attempt to get to safety (car, building etc.) immediately.
  • If you perceive that a predacious attack is imminent, stand your ground, ready your bear spray or any deterrent possible (rocks, large sticks etc…).
  • If the bear begins acting aggressively, attempt to match the aggression and let the bear know that you will not be “easy prey”. Make yourself large and noisy. Stomp and clap at the bear in an attempt to scare it away.
  • Do not play dead! If the bear makes contact, be ready to fight for your life.
Remember, the chances of seeing a bear in the wild is rare – being attacked by a bear is exceptionally rare. That being said, always exercise caution when trekking in bear country (even black bear country). If you respect the bear’s habitat, and enter into their domain with knowledge of their behaviour, you can enjoy our beautiful wilderness to its fullest! [separator headline="h3" title="About Nature Canada's guest blogger"] Stuart O'Brien is a 25 year old business professional in Ottawa, and a graduate of Queen's University.  He is born and raised in rural Ontario and grew up loving nature in many different ways.  He enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing and nature observations.

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.