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Wildlife in Canada

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Details about: Grizzly Bears (Brown bear) in Canada
 
Grizzly Bear on CanadianWildlife.comThe Grizzly/Brown bear

The Grizzly Bear (or Alaskan Brown Bear in Alaska) symbolizes mountain wilderness. Standing large and impressive, coastal Grizzly Bears are an imposing sight.

Measuring 39” (1 m) tall at the shoulder, over 9 ft (2.7 m) when standing on their hind legs and weighing in at an impressive 1,200 lbs (560 kg), coastal Grizzly Bears are the largest member of the Grizzly Bear family and the 2nd largest land carnivore in North America. In the coastal regions where salmon is the primary food source, the Grizzly Bear is referred to as a Brown Bear however they are technically still Grizzly Bears.

Grizzlies are distinguished by the large hump above their shoulders and their flattened conical shaped face. The large hump is actually a great mass of muscle used to power the incredibly strong front paws. Grizzly front paws measuring up to 5” - 7” (12 cm - 17 cm) long and are capped by the more remarkable 4” (10 cm) long claws! These incredibly strong paws and claws are used to move rocks and dig in the earth searching for roots and insects. Although the muscle mass above the shoulders provides amazing strength, it is also a hindrance to the grizzly and slows it down when it is running downhill.

Although lacking a visible muscle mass, it is the powerful hind legs, with paws measuring up to 12” (30 cm) long that are able to support the entire weight of the Grizzly when standing on two legs. Grizzlies can be seen standing up and even walking short distances as they look around taking in their surroundings.

The average Grizzly Bear territory is over 1,500 sq miles (4,000 sq km) with the preference being open country and valley bottoms. Grizzlies appear to be slow movers, lumbering along, swinging their head side-to-side, however they are powerful runners capable of running at speeds up to 35 mph (50 km/h). Being primarily nocturnal, they cover amazing distances travelling under the cover of darkness.

Grizzlies are thought of as being strictly carnivores, but they are actually omnivores with up to 90% of their diet coming from vegetable sources including berries and roots, which they dig for using their strong front legs. In the coastal regions, Grizzlies consume large quantities of salmon. Standing in the middle of a salmon spawning stream, Grizzlies wait patiently watching and waiting for salmon to jump upstream. Once a salmon is airborne, the grizzly will catch them mid-air snatching them between their teeth. Alternatively, they’ve been seen “Bobbing for Salmon”, pinning the salmon underwater, plunging their face in the running stream and coming up with their dinner in their jaws.
 
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It is this plentiful supply of salmon that will sometimes bring dozens of otherwise solitary Grizzly Bears together in close proximity to each other. As the food supply is so grand they generally tolerate each other well, however occasionally vicious fights will break out.

It is believed that Grizzlies do not enter a true hibernation, instead entering what is termed a “false hibernation”. During false hibernation, the bear may wake and walk around outside during the winter. In preparation for this false hibernation, grizzlies may gain up to 400 lbs (180 kg) in order to fuel their sleepy bodies during the winter. Where food is plentiful and weather extremes are not as severe, some grizzlies do not hibernate at all.

Pregnant female grizzly bears usually give birth to a litter of 2 cubs, born between January and March, coinciding with winter break up. When born, the cubs are tiny, weighing only 1 lb (450 gr) and are completely reliant on their mothers. These cubs usually remain with their mother for two years and, depending on ecological conditions, it may be an additional 3 years until she mates again. The average grizzly has a lifespan of 15 - 25 years.

Grizzly Bears in Canada & Alaska are a sight to see. While most are colored brown, they range from white to black and are even know to have a “blue phase” when their fur appears to be a silvery blue color.

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