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Brown Bear Facts

brown bear

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the second biggest bear after the polar bear. They live in mountains and forest areas of North America, Asia, and Europe.

Brown bears are some of the most visually striking animals on the planet.  Few people are aware of the fact that these beautiful animals are not all brown in color.  The little-known truth is brown bears can also have black or cream-colored fur. 

This is just one of the many facts that make them quite interesting animals.  Let’s take a look at some more tidbits about them that make these massive animals that much more intriguing.

Brown Bear Facts for Kids

  • Brown bears are omnivores
  • They are known as “grizzly bears” in North America
  • The Brown bear is found in northern Europe, Canada, Asia, and North America
  • They like to eat berries, small mammals, fish, plants, and nuts.
  • They hibernate in spring
  • They dig dens for winter hibernation
  • A Grizzly bear can live for up to 25 years
  • They can weigh up to 700 pounds
  • They can run fast, up to 30 miles per hour

 

How long do Brown Bears Live?

They have a long lifespan and can live up to 25 years, sometimes longer in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 45 years old.

When do brown bears hibernate?

Grizzly bears hibernate in the winter; during this time, food is not readily available. To get ready for hibernation, they eat more during fall to store up body fat.

During fall, they get their dens ready and usually enter their shelters in September to December and emerging around March to May.

Brown bears do go into a deep sleep during the winter months; this is called torpor.

They hibernate to escape the cold and because food is scarce

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Facts for Kids video

They Will eat Nearly Anything

They are omnivores.  This means these large animals are more than happy to eat animals as well as plants.  From honey to plants, nuts, berries, deer, and even small animals, they will eat just about anything. 

In fact, there are plenty of reports of them consuming garbage left outside of homes and campsites.  However, it is a mistake to feed a brown bear as this gigantic animal poses a direct threat to human beings. 

Brown Bears Reproduce in the Winter

Though few know it, the truth about brown bear reproduction is these animals have babies during the winter months when sleeping.  Once the baby is born, he or she consumes the mother’s milk to remain warm. 

The baby nestles into the mother’s fur for comfort and warmth in between milking sessions.  Once springtime rolls around, the mother bear wakes from her hibernation and meets her brand new cubs for the first time.

Brown Bears Create Their own Caves

They have long claws that empower them to dig out their own caves.  These animals sleep within the caves for the majority of the winter. 

It is also interesting to note their heartbeats slow all the way down to a mere 10 beats per minute while sleeping during the winter.

Every Brown Bear has a Shoulder Hump

Brown bears have a noticeable shoulder hump.  Take a close look and compare their aesthetic to that of other bears, and you will notice they have incredibly strong shoulder muscles

These muscles help form the bear’s distinctive shoulder hump.  Their shoulders are essential in the quest to dig roots out of the ground and rip logs apart when looking for sustenance.  So don’t assume they are hunchbacks. 

The hump toward the back part of their body is a powerful muscle that facilitates challenges such as moving logs and rocks, digging through soil, and making dens.

Brown Bears by the Coast are Particularly Large

There is a noticeable difference in the size of large brown bears who live by the coast and those who live inland.  Brown bears who reside by the water primarily feed on fish. 

In particular, bears that live near the water eat salmon. Salmon is particularly rich in protein. The result of this protein-heavy diet is especially large animals. 

Brown Bears Have Several Sub-species

Similar to the black bear, brown bears have several unique sub-species. Examples of brown bear sub-species include but are not limited to the red bear that lives in the Himalayas and India, the Siberian bear who lives in Russia, the Hokkaido bear in Japan, and the Kodiak bear in Alaska.

There is also a Himalayan snow bear, the grizzly bear, the European brown bear, and even an Asiatic bear.

Their Dens are Unique Spaces

Most people are surprised to learn that Grizzly dens are typically used once and then abandoned. They create their own dens with their sharp nails and powerful muscles.

In fact, most dens feature a tunnel that moves all the way down to a bedroom of sorts. It is here that brown bears safely sleep throughout the entirety of the winter, emerging in the spring, oftentimes with several newborn cubs in tow.

There are Fewer Brown Bears Than Most People Assume

Around 200,000 brown bears exist.  The majority of brown bears live in Canada, Alaska, and Russia. 

Most of these mammoth bears live in spaces that are laden in greenery and have few human beings in the vicinity.

Brown Bears are Heavy but Fast

They weigh around 500 pounds.  In general, this type of bear weighs between 330 pounds and 800 pounds.  The bear’s sex, age, and time of the year all play a role in weight. 

The ones that live in Alaska are around one-third larger than those that reside in the sub-Arctic, North America, and Europe.  Alaskan bears are comparably large as they consume nutrient-rich berries and salmon that are chock full of protein. 

The largest brown bears reside in Admiralty and Kodiak islands.  Bears living on these islands have the potential to reach an astonishing 1,700 pounds.  Some such massive bears have a skull that is 12 inches in width and 18 inches in length. 

When a bear of this size stands on his hind feet, he or she reaches nine feet in height.  However, bears are capable of covering short distances at surprisingly fast speeds in spite of their considerable weight.  They have the potential to reach a speed of more than 30 miles per hour.

Brown Bears Pick up on Odors Better Than Other Animals

Brown bears are large in size, partially because they eat a lot.  The considerable level of consumption is the result of brown bears’ superior sense of smell.  Brown bears are capable of detecting odors from several miles away. 

It is that much easier for brown bears to detect scents when they are downwind.  Add in the fact that brown bears can see and hear nearly as well as humans, and it is that much easier to understand why these animals are so successful in their pursuit of food. 

Furthermore, bears will stand on their hind paws to obtain a better “lay of the land” to better pick up on the odors carried by the wind.

Brown Bears Have the Widest Distribution of any Bear on the planet

Brown bears are resourceful to the point that they exist in all sorts of different ecosystems ranging from densely wooded forests to icy tundra, mountainous regions, and elsewhere. 

In fact, brown bears once lived in the North American Great Plains prior to encroachment from human beings.  Brown bears have the most expansive range and distribution of all bear species.  In fact, some brown bears are even scattered in parts of Asia and Europe.

Aside from Alaska, brown bears also live in other parts of North American, ranging from the western portion of Canada to Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Brown Bears Make Their own Day Beds

Bears dig down into the earth to create their own shallow depressions within the grass or soil below.  These “day beds” are typically positioned beneath geological formations or thick foliage, serving as convenient resting places. 

However, once fall rolls around, brown bears will travel mile after mile to seek out food in the form of salmon and berries.

Brown Bears Have Minimal Social Contact

Brown bears are anti-social animals.  These solitary beasts do not live in any type of pack or herd, meaning the social contact between them and other animals is limited. 

The lack of social stimulation has resulted in brown bears failing to develop body language with any level of complexity.  Furthermore, this lack of socialization has also limited the animal’s ability to generate meaningful sounds. 

In fact, those who study brown bears insist their lack of socialization has led to their failure to develop the muscles necessary to create facial expressions. 

Brown bears’ comparably small ears also make it difficult for the animal to communicate through any type of visual signal. 

Brown Bears are Curious Animals

Though brown bears are not exactly master communicators, they are highly adaptable to their surroundings.  Those who have observed brown bears in the wild have found these gigantic animals are quite inquisitive. 

Brown bears are constantly inspecting their surroundings, largely because they are constantly looking for food.  It is quite interesting to note that zoo experiments show brown bears study objects within their enclosures that much more closely and extensively than other primates.

Brown Bears Have a Short Mating Season

Their mating season is between May and the first weeks of July.  This is the period of time they are looking for a mate.  Males who are larger than others have more success in mating, ultimately resulting in males growing to two times the size of females.

When males are looking for a female who is in heat, they rely on their powerful sense of smell.  Male bears pick up on female bear hormones within their urine by sniffing grassy areas and soil in an area where they believe females might be living. 

In fact, some male bears will follow a scent for miles in an attempt to mate during the short mating season.  It is particularly interesting to note female bears are disturbed by the initial interest expressed by male bears. 

Females attempt to evade males at the start of the mating process.  In fact, researchers have observed female bears running away from male bears across meadows, streams, and brush for several days before giving in and mating. 

In some cases, it takes upwards of an entire week for this chase to come to an end, ultimately culminating in a mating session.  The two spend a couple of days in close proximity to one another, playing and eating food before mating.

Brown Bears Live Only a Couple Decades

In the wild, they typically live between 20 and 30 years on average.  There are some brown bears who live upwards of 40 years.  However, for the most part, brown bears who live in the wild and reach 20 years of age are considered fairly old. 

Bears in captivity live comparably longer as they are provided with the right level of nutritional sustenance and medical care to reach the upper range of their potential lifespan.

It is quite possible that advances in bear medical care combined with an ongoing analysis of these unique animals will set the stage for those living in captivity to reach half a century in age or even older.

Nearly Two-thirds of a Brown Bear’s Life is Spent Hibernating

Can you imagine sleeping away more than 60% of your life?  This is exactly what brown bears do. Most people are shocked to learn more than half and slightly less than two-thirds of the average brown bear’s life is spent in hibernation, peacefully sleeping. 

Grizzly bears make their way to dens and start hibernating in the late fall months prior to the onset of the cold winter.  This hibernation is a deep sleep during which the bear does not eat yet has the potential to reproduce cubs. 

The period of hibernation serves as a retreat from regular living and is largely driven by food insecurity.  The “fat of the land” is greatly diminished as the year comes to an end.  Brown bears eventually reach the point where it no longer makes sense to burn calories while searching for food. 

As a result, it is advantageous to conserve energy while keeping body movement to a minimum, essentially turning down the metabolic rate to a level that ensures the bear can sleep for months without consuming food.