Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)

Grizzly Bear


  • Adult male (or boar) body weight average is 180 kilograms (400 pounds), but in better habitats, body weight can be 325 kilograms (716.5 pounds) or more.
  • Adult female (or sow) body weight average is about two-thirds that of the male.
  • Adult forefoot print width is about 14 centimetres (5.5 inches). Adult rear foot print length is about 25 centimetres (9.75 inches).


  • In profile, snout rises sharply into broad "dished" face.
  • Ears rounded, noticeable but not prominent.
  • Pronounced shoulder hump.
  • Claws of front feet are long, sometimes with white streak. In prints, the claws are obvious — five to eight centimetres (two to three inches) ahead of toes.
  • When standing on the level, a grizzly's body profile slopes backward from the high point at the front shoulders.
  • Colour varies from tawny brown to black.
  • Fur is often "grizzled" in appearance (silver-tipped) but this is not true of all grizzlies, nor does this occur at all times of the year.
  • Grizzly bears prefer open or semi-open country, and are found in the foothill, mountain and boreal regions of the province.
  • Historically, grizzlies once occupied the prairie and parkland, but conflicts with people as well as wildlife community and habitat changes have resulted in the species being eliminated from most of these areas.
  • Their current range includes areas in or near the Rocky Mountains and in some boreal forest areas of north-central and north-western Alberta.
Natural History


  • Because of a combination of social and other ecological requirements, grizzly bears require large areas of land or "space" on an annual and lifetime basis.
  • Grizzly bears also require a mix of seasonal habitats in their annual home ranges in order to have sufficient access to the full range of primary food sources.
    • In the spring, dry, steep subalpine grasslands are the favoured habitat for grizzlies in the mountain regions, whereas moist stream banks and channels are preferred by grizzlies in the boreal forest.
    • In the summer, typical grizzly bear habitats may include:
      • Wet streamsides in mature spruce forest
      • Gully bottoms
      • Groundwater seepage areas
      • Wet meadows and fens
      • Disturbed sites (e.g., roadsides)
      • Toes of avalanche slopes
      • Moist east- and north-facing slopes near treeline
      • Regenerating burns and clearcuts
    • In winter, the grizzly usually digs its den on a slope where the ground is stabilized by root systems of trees and shrubs and where accumulation of snow adds insulation.


  • Grizzly bears are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plants and animals.
  • The diet of a grizzly bear can include:

    • Berries
    • Fish
    • Grasses
    • Ground squirrels
    • Insects
    • Mice
    • Roots
    • Ungulates
  • Grizzlies will readily eat carrion, and occasionally kill deer, moose, elk or even black bears.
  • Diet changes with the seasons. In early spring, diet is primarily vegetarian, consisting of such food items as overwintered bear berries and roots of Indian potato. By summer, diet can expand to include elk and moose calves, and ants.

When Active

  • In Alberta, grizzly bears are active from spring until late autumn.
  • As a rule, grizzlies enter dens during a major snowfall (late October for females, late November for males).
  • Like northern black bears, grizzlies "hibernate" for the winter, although the period spent in the winter den averages slightly less and they do occasionally wake up and roam near the den during the winter.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Grizzly bears reach breeding maturity by the age of five to seven years. Female grizzlies, on average, breed only once in three to four years.
  • Mating takes place in June or July, and the embryo does not develop until fall when bears enter dens for their winter dormancy.
  • One to three cubs are born during the winter (the most common litter size is two).

Growth Process

  • At birth, cubs weigh only 340 to 680 grams (12 to 24 ounces), but grow rapidly to about 15 kilograms (33 pounds) by the time they leave the den in April.
  • The sow aggressively protects her cubs from all real or possible threats, including grizzly boars (adult males), which may attack and kill undefended cubs.
  • Cubs remain with sows for 28 to 29 months, through the second winter, but leave her before she mates again.
Conservation and Management


The grizzly bear has been designated as Threatened under Alberta’s Wildlife Act. The general status of the grizzly bear can be found here:

Also see the Status of the Grizzly Bear in Alberta report at:

On recommendation from the Endangered Species Conservation Committee, the grizzly bear is listed as Threatened because of the small size of the breeding population, restricted dispersal from adjacent jurisdictions and the expectation that current and future land use and human activity will lead to declines.


  • Human-caused mortality is the most important limiting factor in grizzly bear conservation.
  • Unrestricted road access and use in grizzly habitats can lead to habitat fragmentation and conflicts with humans, and contributes to increased bear mortality.

Current Management

  • Alberta BearSmart

    The Alberta BearSmart Program is a public education initiative which is part of an overall strategy to reduce human-bear conflicts and manage Alberta’s bear population.

  • Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

    The Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan was approved in October, 2007 . Implementation actions include:

    • Continued suspension on sport hunting until population status has been confirmed (suspension continued through 2010).
    • Developing motorized access management strategies in important grizzly bear habitats (components began in 2009).
    • Expanding efforts to reduce human-bear conflicts (expansion of BearSmart program , hiring Carnivore Specialist, and continuation of intercept feeding program and problem wildlife response (including use of Karelian bear dogs).
    • DNA-based population estimates completed for most areas from U.S. border to south of Grande Prairie. Ongoing efforts to improve population assessments in remaining areas, primarily through habitat relationships.
    • Habitat mapping completed for almost all areas of grizzly range in Alberta.
    • Improving data management.
    • Science Advisory Committee established to advise on research/monitoring priorities.
    • Ongoing communication and cooperation with neighbouring jurisdictions.


  • The spring grizzly bear hunt was suspended in 2006, to allow for a better population assessment. The hunting suspension continued through 2010.
  • In specific Wildlife Management Units, the hunt may resume once criteria of recovery plan for population and wildlife management objectives have been met.
Similar Species
  • Black Bear

    A brown-furred black bear may easily be mistaken for a grizzly, and it is especially important for black bear hunters to be able to distinguish the two species.

    In contrast with the grizzly, black bears:

    • Have a straight (not dished) facial profile
    • Have larger ears
    • Lack a pronounced shoulder hump

    The claws of the feet are shorter than the grizzly's and make less of an imprint in tracks.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 7, 2016