Common Name: Brown Bear
Latin Name: Ursus arctos
Location: northern North America, Europe, and Asia
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Brown bears originated in Asia 1.25 million years ago and later migrated across the Bering Land Bridge, thus the brown bears found in the Russian Far East are the same species as those found in North America. Brown bears are very adaptable to a range from mountains to coast to forests. In North America they prefer tundra, alpine meadows and coastlines.
While the brown bear’s range has shrunk, it’s conservation status is listed as Least Concern with a total estimated population in 2017 of 110,000 individuals. As of 2012 this and the American black bear are the only bear species not classified as threatened by the IUCN Red List
To many Americans, a Grizzly is a large brown bear. Period. Scientifically the Grizzly is identified as the subspecies horribilis. This subspecies is a medium-sized brown bear found in the northern plains of North America (i.e. Montana). The popular name Grizzly came from Americans moving west in the 19th century, observing that the bears appeared grizzled. This appearance came from the fact that some individual brown bears, regardless of subspecies, develop grey hair-tips that give this impression from a distance.
Their weight can vary widely depending on the time of year and where they are located. Brown bears eat whatever they find in season, which includes a wide variety of plants, salmon, small animals, carrion, insects and fungi. A coastal Alaskan bear living on a diet of spawning salmon may reach 1,300 pounds, while a mostly herbivorous inland grizzly bear can weigh as little as 350 pounds. They can eat up to 30 pounds of food a day to store fat for the winter. A brown bear loses about 2 pounds of fat each day during winter sleep. Some bears are 50% lighter when they come out of their dens in the spring.
- Brown bears are not true hibernators, instead falling into a deep sleep called torpor. They can be woken if they sense a threat.
- The world’s largest brown bears are found in coastal British Columbia and Alaska, and on islands like Kodiak.
- If a newborn human gained weight at the same proportion as a brown bear cub, as adults we would weigh more than 6000 pounds.
- A brown bear can outrun a horse at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.