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Grizzly Bear Characteristics

Appearance: The brown bear (sometimes called a grizzly in North America) is a large animal, usually dark brown in color, though it can vary from a light creamy shade through to black. The long guard hairs over the shoulders and back are often tipped with white which, from a distance, gives a grizzled appearance. The brown bear is characterized by a distinctive hump on the shoulders, a slightly dished profile to the face, and long claws on the front paws.

Size: There is considerable variability in the size of brown bears from different populations, depending on the food available. Determining representative weights of specific populations is also difficult as there are seasonal considerations to take into account-for instance, some bears can weigh twice as much in the fall as they might weigh in spring. Adult males may weigh 135 to 390 kilograms (300 to 860 pounds) compared with 95 to 205 kilograms (205 to 455 pounds) for female s. At birth, cubs weigh 340 to 680 grams (11 ounces to 1 pound 6 ounces).

The largest bears are found on the west coast of British Columbia and Alaska, and on offshore islands along coastal Alaska, such as Kodiak and Admiralty. There, males average over 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and females over 200 kilograms (440 pounds). Brown bears from the interior ranges of North America, Europe, and the subArctic are roughly two-thirds the size of their Alaskan and Kamchatkan cousins. Habitat: Brown bears occupy a wide range of habitats including dense forests, sub-alpine mountain areas, and tundra. They were once abundant on the central plains of North America, but have since been exterminated.

Distribution: The range of the brown bear is the widest of any species of bear in the world. They are found in localized populations in eastern and western Europe, across northern Asia and in Japan. In North America, brown bears are found in western Canada, Alaska, and in the states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

Reproduction: Female brown bears reach sexual maturity at four-and-a-half to seven years of age. Males may become sexually mature at a similar age but are probably not large enough to be able to enter the breeding population until they a re eight to ten years old. Mating takes place from early May to the middle of July but implantation does not occur until about October or November. The young are born from about January to March. The litter size ranges from one to four, but two is most common. Cubs remain with their mothers for at least two-and-a-half years, so the most frequently a female can breed is every three years. In some areas, such as near the Arctic coast, the breeding interval is considerably longer. Longevity in the wild is 20 to 25 years.

Social System: Under most circumstances, brown bears live as lone individuals, except for females accompanied by their cubs. During the breeding season, a male may attend a female for up to two weeks for mating. Brown bears are distributed in overlapping home ranges and male home ranges are larger than those occupied by females. Despite their propensity for a solitary existence, brown bears congregate at high densities where food is abundant, such as at salmon streams or garbage dumps. In such circumstances, adult males are the most dominant individuals.

Diet: Brown bears mainly eat vegetation such as grasses, sedges, bulbs, and roots. They also eat insects such as ants, fish, and small mammals. In some areas they have become significant predators of large hoofed mammals such as moose, caribou, and elk.