1 Accounts and Measures for Managing Identified Wildlife Accounts V. 2004 1
Original prepared by Les Gyug,Tony Hamilton, and Matt Austin
The Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos, is one of eight speciesof the bear family, Ursidae. There are currently tworecognized North American subspecies: U. arctoshorribilis, the common subspecies, and U. arctosmiddendorffi, the Kodiak bear, found on a fewAlaskan coastal islands.
Bears are different from other carnivores by theirgreatly enlarged molar teeth with surfaces that havelost their shearing function and are adapted tocrushing, in keeping with their omnivorous diets.The forelimbs are strongly built and the feet areplantigrade and have five toes. Forefeet have long,non-retractile claws. The ears are small and the tail isextremely short.
The Grizzly Bear is the second largest member ofthe bear family next only to the polar bear(U. maritimus). Grizzlies are large, heavy-bodiedbears that can attain weights of up to 500 kg (averagerange 270360 kg). Exceptionally large bears havebeen recorded at 680 kg. Adult grizzlies reach nose-to-tail lengths of 1.8 m on average but have beenrecorded as long as 2.7 m. The long, outer guardhairs of the Grizzly Bear are often tipped with white,silver, or cream giving the bear a grizzled appear-ance. Coat colour is quite variable, usually brownbut ranging from black to almost white. Coat colouris not a good characteristic for distinguishingbetween Grizzly Bears and Black Bears (Ursusamericanus). Grizzly Bear facial profiles are usuallydished-in and a hump of muscle is normallypresent on the shoulders. The front claws on a
Grizzly Bear are longer than on Black Bears, being aslong as 10 cm. The long front claws and hump ofmuscle on the shoulders are adaptations for digging.
The Grizzly Bear has a circumpolar distributiononce covering most of North America, Europe, andthe northern part of Asia. In many of these areas ithas been exterminated or its numbers have beengreatly reduced. Most of the worlds Grizzly Bearsnow occur in northwestern North America andRussia.
In North America, Grizzly Bears once ranged overmost of the west, from Alaska south to Mexico, andfrom the Pacific coast east to Manitoba, and theMissouri River (Banci 1991). In the wake ofwestward development and settlement, especially inthe plains, the range of the grizzly shrank to itspresent distribution of Alaska, the Yukon Territory,and British Columbia, with small populations inAlberta, the Northwest Territories, Montana, Idaho,and Wyoming.
Grizzly Bears historically occurred throughoutBritish Columbia, with the exception of some coastalislands (e.g., Vancouver Island, Queen CharlotteIslands, and others). Populations are consideredextirpated from much of south and southcentralBritish Columbia (e.g., lower elevations of theOkanagan, the Lower Mainland, and parts of theCariboo). However, Grizzly Bear are occasionallysighted in the southern interior plateaus and otherareas from which their populations are consideredeffectively extirpated.
2 Accounts and Measures for Managing Identified Wildlife Accounts V. 2004
Forest regions and districts
Grizzly Bears occur in all forest regions and almostall forest districts except South Island, and QueenCharlotte Islands, and only in the mainland portionsof the Campbell River and North Island forestdistricts.
Ecoprovinces and ecosections
Grizzly Bears occur in most ecoprovinces andecosections in mainland British Columbia but areabsent from Vancouver Island and Queen CharlotteIslands. The following are mainland ecosectionswithin which Grizzly Bear populations areconsidered extirpated:
BOP: PEL, and parts of CLH, HAP, KIP
CEI: CAB, FRB, and parts of CAP, CHP, NAU,QUL
COM: NWC, and parts of EPR, SPR
GED: GEL, FRL
SOI: SOB, SOH, NOB, THB and parts of NOH,NTU, OKR, PAR, STU
Grizzly Bears occur in all biogeoclimatic units exceptBG and CDF.
Broad ecosystem units
Grizzly Bears are wide ranging, and can occur inmost broad ecosystem units.
All elevations from sea level estuaries to high alpinemeadows and talus slopes.
Diet and foraging behaviour
In British Columbia, Grizzly Bears are efficientpredators and scavengers but rely more on a vege-tative diet. Grizzly Bears consume a wide variety offoods, including roots and green vegetation, smalland large mammals, fish, and insects. A huge varietyof plant, animal, fish, and insect food sources areregionally important. Grizzly Bears are omnivorousand opportunistic in their feeding habitats. Habitat
selection is governed by forage availability during thegrowing season. Grizzly Bear diet also changes withthe seasons to make use of the most digestible foods.For example, Grizzly Bears will take advantage ofpalatable early spring forage. Feeding on ungulates isimportant during early spring, and for many bears,salmon comprises a significant fall diet item.
In general, the largest differences in the feedingpatterns are between coastal and interior GrizzlyBears. On the coast (MacHutchon et al. 1993;Hamilton 1987), beginning in the spring, GrizzlyBears feed on early green vegetation such as skunkcabbage (Lysichiton americanus) and sedges locatedin the estuaries and seepage sites that become snow-free first. As the season advances, the bears follow thereceding snow up the avalanche chutes feeding onemerging vegetation and roots. Ripe berries attractthe grizzlies down onto the floodplain and lowerslopes where they eat devils-club (Oplopanaxhorridus), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), raspberry(Rubus spp.), black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata),elderberry (Sambucus spp.), and a variety ofblueberries (Vaccinium spp.). They begin to feed onsalmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) as they becomeavailable in the spawning channels and continue todo so until late fall, feeding on live and eventuallydead salmon. Once salmon supplies dwindle,grizzlies return to feeding on skunk cabbage andother vegetation. Grizzlies will feed on insects andgrubs when the opportunity arises, as well asmolluscs and other animals of the intertidal zone.
In the interior (Simpson 1987; McLellan and Hovey1995; Ciarniello et al. 2001) beginning in the spring,grizzlies feed mainly on the roots of Hedysarum spp.,spring beauty (Claytonia lacneolata), and/oravalanche lily (Erythronium grandiflorum)depending on local abundance, and on carrion. Theymay also opportunistically prey on winter-weakenedungulates. As the green vegetation emerges the bearsbegin to graze on grasses, horsetails, rushes, andsedges. During this time, they also prey on ungulateson their calving grounds. In summer, bears followthe green-up to obtain nutritious young springgrowth including locally important food sourcessuch as cow-parsnip (Heracleum spp.). They also
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obtain early ripening fruits beginning in mid-Julymainly in riparian forests and productive lowelevation seral forests, such as pine-soopolallieterraces. In late-summer and fall (AugustOctober)high elevation berries become the major foodsource, mainly soopolallie (Shepherdia canadensis),blueberries, and huckleberries. Late fall feedingfocuses mainly on harder berries such as mountainash (Sorbus spp.) or kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylosuva-ursi) that persist past the Vaccinium fruitingseason, and on the roots of Hedysarum in areaswhere it occurs. Throughout the active season,interior grizzlies will prey on small mammals,especially ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp.) Fish,roots, pine nuts, or bulbs, and insects are importantwhenever they are available and sufficiently abun-dant. Army cutworm moths (Noctuidae) in highelevation alpine talus slopes and boulder fields maybe locally important (White et al. 1998a).
Breeding occurs between the end of April and end ofJune. Cubs are born in the den between January andMarch. The average age of first reproduction forfemales in southeastern British Columbia is 6 years,the time period between litters is 2.7 years, and themean number of cubs per litter is 2.3 (McLellan1989a). In southern grizzly populations, cubs tend tostay with the mother for approximately 2.5 years.Females remain in estrus throughout the breedingseason until mating occurs and do not ovulate againfor at least 2 (usually 3 or 4) years after giving birth.Two offspring are generally born per litter, andyoung are born blind and without fur. They areweaned at 5 months of age but remain with themother until at least their second spring (and usuallyuntil the third or fourth).
Many telemetry studies have shown that GrizzlyBears are creatures of habit and will usually return tothe same seasonal food sources and areasthroughout their lifetimes. Foraging strategies aresomewhat flexible; individuals adapt to annualvariation in food supply and can learn to exploitnewly available food sources. However, many of a
Grizzly Bears movements, habitat selection, andforaging patterns are learned as a cub and arereinforced throughout their lives (2030 yr). Homerange fidelity may be strong as a result, especiallyfor females.
Home range sizes are proportionate to food quality,quantity, and distribution. Generally Grizzly Bearhome ranges in productive coastal habitats nearsalmon stream are smaller than ranges in interiormountains, which are again smaller than ranges ininterior plateau habitats. For coastal BritishColumbia, average minimum single year home rangesize was 137 km2 for males, and 52 km2 for females(Khutzeymateen: MacHutchon et al. 1993). For wetinterior mountains, average home range size was187 km