Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Grizzly Bear, endangered subspecies Ursus arctos horribilis


enlarge +

Grizzly Bear, endangered subspecies, Yellowstone
credit: Terry Tollefsbo, USFWS

All Images

1 article:

Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Ursidae, Bears view all from this family

Description Brown, of various shades from tan to dark brown, often with white-tipped hairs, giving grizzled appearance. Hump above shoulders. Facial profile concave. Outer pair of incisors larger than inner 2. Claws of front feet can reach nearly 4" (10 cm) long.

Dimensions Ht about 4' 3" (130 cm); L 5' 11"-7' (180-213 cm); T 3" (7.6 cm); HF 10 1/4" (26 cm); Wt in contiguous U.S. usually 300-700 lb (135-317 kg).

Endangered Status The subspecies of the Grizzly Bear that lives in the contiguous U.S. is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in the lower 48 states, although its current range extends only into Idaho, Montana, Washington (rarely), and Wyoming. (It has not been recorded in Colorado in many years.) Perhaps 50,000 Grizzlies roamed the western U.S. in 1800 from the Canadian border to Mexico, as far east as the middle of the Great Plains. The settlement and development of the West meant changes to and destruction of the Grizzly's habitat, competition with humans for game such as White-tailed Deer, and clashes between bears and humans. Grizzlies were seen as a threat to humans and livestock, and were hunted, trapped, and poisoned extensively, both for food and fur and to eliminate them from areas where humans lived. In 1975, when the Grizzly Bear came under the protection of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, only about 1,000 remained in the lower 48 states. Habitat degradation, from recreational and residential development, road building, and mineral and energy exploration, remains a threat today. Even the development of areas that Grizzlies don't normally live in can be destructive, because the bears may use these areas as corridors to reach suitable feeding habitat. Some private landowners and companies have volunteered to protect these corridors on their land in order to protect the bears. Plans to reintroduce Grizzlies into suitable habitat in the U.S. Northwest have faced serious opposition and may never come to pass.

Warning  All North American bears can be dangerous in the following situations: when accompanied by cubs, when surprised by the sudden appearance of humans, when approached while feeding, guarding a kill, fishing, hungry, injured, or breeding, and when conditioned to human foods, as has occurred in some Canadian and U.S. parks. Campers must firmly seal up food and place it out of reach. Bears will break into unattended vehicles if they smell food. The Grizzly is the most dangerous of all bears. Do not feed, approach, surprise at close range, or get between a Grizzly Bear and its food or cubs. While Grizzlies normally avoid humans, they will attack and have been known to seriously injure and even kill humans. Grizzlies can outrun humans, and can climb trees. If charged by a Grizzly, stand your ground; if attacked, lie flat on your stomach and play dead.

Similar Species Black Bear is smaller, lacks shoulder hump, and has straight or slightly convex facial profile; all 3 pairs of its upper incisors are equal in size.

Habitat Forests interspersed with nonforested meadows and valley bottoms, usually in mountainous areas; also along coasts and rivers.

Range Alaska, Yukon, and Northwest Territories south through most of British Columbia and w Alberta to northwestern United States. In the contiguous U.S., south into northwestern tier of states: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming; occasionally wanders to Washington; not seen in Colorado in more than 20 years.