Brown bears have long captured our imaginations in ways that few other wild animals have—they can stand on their two hind legs, pick things up with their paws, and as omnivores, they even like to eat a lot of the same food as humans. These bears are especially relatable thanks to their ability to communicate with one another through “sign language” that includes scratch marks left on trees, sounds and smells.
How much do you know about Ursus arctos? Here are 13 fun facts about brown bears:
1. Where do brown bears live?
The brown bear has the widest distribution of any bear, once ranging as far as Morocco, Algeria and Mexico. Today it lives in North America, Asia and Europe, and is the national animal of Finland. In the United Status, you can see wild brown bears in places like Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and Katmai National Park, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
2. How strong are brown bears?
Brown bears have amazing endurance. They can outrun a horse and drag a dead elk up a hill!
3. How do brown bears communicate with each other?
Brown bears communicate by scratching and rubbing on trees to mark their territory and indicate their reproductive status.
4. How long do brown bears hibernate?
Brown bears hibernate in a den from October/December to March/May. The farther north they live, the longer they hibernate. In some southern areas, hibernation is very short or may not occur at all.
5. How big do brown bears get?
Two general types of brown bear are recognized, the coastal brown bear and the inland grizzly. Mostly herbivorous grizzlies can weigh as little as 350 lbs, while a brown bear living on a diet of spawning salmon may reach 1500 lbs.
6. Why are some brown bears called grizzlies?
In the Rocky Mountains, brown bears have long hairs on the shoulders and back that are frosted with cream, giving them a grizzled, blond look: thus, grizzlies!
7. How do brown bears help keep ecosystems in balance?
Brown bears play important roles as predators—keeping animal populations in check—and as seed dispersers.
8. How can I identify a brown bear?
Look for the shoulder hump, a set of strong muscles that allow the brown bear to dig up roots and tear apart logs to find food. None of the other seven bear species have it.
9. How are brown bear cubs born during hibernation?
Brown bear mothers give birth in their sleep! Cubs born during hibernation make their way to the mother’s chest and nurse until she is ready to wake up.
10. What is the biggest brown bear?
Called Kodiak bears for their home on the Kodiak archipelago off the Alaska coast, these giants are the largest subspecies of brown bear.
11. Can a person outrun a brown bear?
Tennis shoes or no, this is one bear that will beat you every time. Despite its great size and ambling demeanor, brown bears have been clocked at speeds up to 30 mph!
12. Where is Brooks Falls?
Brooks Falls, located within Alaska’s Katmai National Park, is arguably the most famous spot in the world to capture that classic shot of brown bears catching salmon in mid-air.
13. What is World Wildlife Fund doing to protect brown bears?
Brown bears live across the northern hemisphere in mountain forests and river valleys. One of the world’s largest carnivores, brown bears depend on large natural areas and are important management indicators for a number of other wildlife species. Due to vast habitat loss, brown bears are listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states. WWF is working to protect brown bears through habitat preservation around the world, and anti-poaching efforts in Asia.