GRIZZLY BEARS

grizzly

by Jason MacDonald, Paula MacDonald, Mitchell MacPhee, and Paige Nicolle

Appearance

Grizzly bears are very strong and large animals. Their size and weight are variable depending on the availability of food, and the climatic conditions. The adult bears stand approximately 100 cm tall on all four legs. Their body length is just over 200 cm, and their weight is variable, normally anywhere from 330 to 825 pounds. Grizzly bears have heavy stout bodies with strong muscular legs. They have a big head, short tail, small rounded feet and ears, and hind feet with five toes each. The grizzlies have a distinctive muscular shoulder hump, and the claws on the front paws are large, strong and slightly curved. The claws are brown and are used mainly to dig food, ground squirrels and mice. The length of the front claws are often 9 cm long. The grizzlies are covered with heavy shaggy fur. There are many different color phases including black cinnamon, red, blond or a mixture of these colors. These bears got the name grizzly from the silver tipped grizzly hair that the bears develop when they are older.

Habitat

The grizzly bear has a very widespread and solitary habitat. They have the largest distribution of all eight species of bears. They can be found in Canada, Alaska, and in reserves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington, USA. The grizzly's preferred habitats are deserted rivers, wild mountains, thick and dense forests, open meadows, and large valleys. Its favorite food is fish, so the grizzlies are mainly found by deserted rivers. Their range originally went from the Northern Arctic seacoasts, southward over the tundra-covered mountains of the North. Females with young cubs will usually be found in the rugged terrains and basins, where males usually don't go. The females' estimated land range is estimated to be 200 to 600 square kilometers; the males' land range is estimated to be 900 to 1800 square kilometers. The grizzly's range can vary depending on the quality and quantity of the food that is available. As human populations have grown, the grizzly's range has gradually shrunk. The grizzly is well-adapted to its wilderness life and lives an almost solitary existence. The grizzlies are rarely seen by any human who is not researching them.

Behavior

Grizzly bears are usually peaceful animals. They try to avoid a fight and run from danger, but they are short tempered and get angry easily and quickly. They are fierce fighters and will attack anything that seems to threaten them or their cubs, food or home. The grizzly is a very protective animal. They will become violent if their cubs are attacked. If it is cornered or attacked, it can be very dangerous.

Food Supply

Grizzly bears, like most wild creatures search for foods that will easily and quickly satisfy their appetite. Their diet consists of vegetable matter including berries, flowers, grasses, sedges, herbs, tubers, nuts of all kinds, animal carcass, fish, small marine animals, ants and other insects, honey, elk, moose, calves, and other small animals such as ground squirrels and marmots. Because of their large size, grizzly bears regularly have a high caloric intake of food in order to maintain their size; they will eat up to 36 to 41 kilograms (80 to 90 pounds) of food per day. They are able to gain 11 to 23 kilograms (3 to 6 pounds) per day.

Life Cycle and Young

The breeding season for grizzlies usually occurs in June and July when the bears reach maturity, around 5 years of age. The male chooses his mate and spends a month mating with her, then leaves to continue his solitary life. The female then finds or digs a den, where she will sleep through the winter. This is especially important for the pregnant female, whose cubs will be born during the winter. She'll give birth to her cubs in January, February, or March (gestation takes 4 or 5 months). Average litter size is 2, but 4 is not uncommon. Weighing less than a pound, a newborn cub gains weight quickly from the rich mother's milk containing 33% fat. As they grow up, the cubs may increase their weight as much as 1,000 pounds. A deep bond unites a mother with her cubs, and she fiercely protects them from adult males and other predators, until they are 2 years old. Bears have a lifespan of 15 to more than 30 years in the wild.

Enemies and Endangerment

Grizzly bears have few enemies except other bears and humans, when they go wandering into camp grounds. Grizzlies are hunted primarily as game animals throughout Western Canada in spring and fall. They are illegally hunted by both the landowners seeing the bears as a threat to their livestock, and poachers interested in their hides, teeth, claws and internal organs for the Asian medical market. For many years across North America, there has been voiced concern about the illegal killing of grizzlies, but there is a growing world medical market for bear parts, especially gall bladders; some poachers even film the death of the bear to show that the gall bladders are real.

In 1985, estimated populations of the grizzly were 1,200 in Alberta, 6,500 in British Columbia, and 4,000 to 5,000 in the Northwest Territories. The grizzly's population is gradually shrinking. The B.C. government estimates that hunting, poaching, and other human related activities are responsible for the deaths of 6,335 grizzlies every year. The natural life span of grizzly bears can be 25 years or more. Unfortunately, 95% of the grizzly bears who live past age 2 in North America die at the hands of humans from gunshot. People are the biggest threat to grizzlies not only because of hunters, but also because of the increasing human population and the resulting erosion of grizzly habitat.


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