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A grizzly bear is the North-American counterpart of the European and Russian brown bear. Formerly it was thought that the grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) was a different species than the larger brown bear. Nowadays we know that the grizzly is the same (Ursus arctos).

Grizzly bear catches a salmon in a river.


Sign with rules on how to store your food in bear country.


The North American grizzly is smaller and more unpredictable than the bears that live on the coast because of the food supply. The grizzly lives mainly in the Interior. Here he eats mostly plants and berries. The bears on the coast have extra food sources, like salmon that swim up the many rivers by the thousands. This protein rich food causes the regular brown bears to become bigger. In Katmai National Park (Alaska) lives the largest known population of Brown / Grizzly bears in the world. You cannot see any difference between them. They all have an abundance of food with plenty of salmon for all of them. They all become really big over there. The biggest of them all, Kodiak bears, live a little south of there.


We have guided groups there and have seen at least a total of 50 or more grizzlies in our lifetime. Some really up close. Every day we saw a at least 5 or 10 and we are still here :-) Knowing what to do (and especially what NOT to do) is really important in those areas. A bear might suddenly be standing right in front of you without you even hearing or seeing him. So if wou want to go to a  remote wilderness area, check out our “Dealing with bears" pages.

The coat of a brown bear varies widely in color. The name Grizzly stands for gray. In some areas brown bears have grey patches on their fur and that's how they got their name.
The brown bear can smell really well (many times better than a dog) and can follow smells from miles away. They can also hear very well but their eyesight is a bit less developed. Still they almost see as good as us. Brown bears are powerful and very strong. A 340 kg (750 pound) weighing grizzly is known to have killed a 450 kg (1000 pounds) bison. People saw him pulling the dead bison across the tundra for quit a distance. Despite their fat, slow appearance and particular way of walking, they can run as fast as a horse. Up to 45 km/h (28 miles/h).

Brown bears used to live through the whole of Europe, most of Russia and all the way to the desert regions of California. In Europe they are mostly extinct and can only be found in the Eastern European countries that border Russia, the far north of Scandinavia and some small scattered patches like the Pyrenees. Hunting also killed most of the brown bears in the lower USA and they now only live in the more remote areas in the north. In Alaska, Canada and Russia they still thrive.


Weight 270kg (595lb) - 680kg(1,500lb)

Length 2 meter (6,5 feet)

Grizzly bear fishing for salmon at Brooks falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska.
brown and Grizzly bear habitat worldwide map.

More detailed information about Grizzly bears can be found on the following pages.


National Geographic

World Wildlife Fund

BBC Nature


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