Description - Grizzly Bears of British Columbia (Ursus arctos)
Sightings: Common – On mainland coast near salmon bearing streams and rivers:
A large bulge made up of muscle and fat on the grizzly’s shoulders easily identifies this species. The colours of their shaggy fir range from black, cinnamon, red, blond, to a mixture of any these colours, a male bear can weigh up to 900 kg however the average is closer to 400 kg. When standing erect, grizzlies can reach heights of up to ten feet.
Also known as the mighty brown bear, Grizzly’s evolved roughly a million years ago, almost certainly from the black bear family. Today a number of subspecies can be found around the world. The grizzly bear gets its name from the light-tipped guard hairs that give them a grizzled look.
In history; grizzlies were known to roam over most of the western United States, Alaska, Canada and southern Mexico. With the event of mass urbanisation, habitat has been reduced to only particular remote ranges of the Coastal Mountains of British Columbia and plains of western United States and Canada. Grizzly bears are not indigenous to Vancouver Island although they have been known to swim from Island to Island in an effort to reach the Big Island. In most cases of Island hopping the grizzly bears have been euthanized.
Grizzly bears eat a wide variety of foods; insects, wild honey, roots, grasses, mountain sorrel, buffalo berries, huckleberries, fish, moose, elk, deer, sheep, and occasionally other bears.
Generally, maturity is reached at five years of age, with the breeding season starting in around the month of June into the end of July, the male chooses the mate and then he spends a month or so with her. Shortly afterwards he departs to resume his isolated lifestyle. The female, locates or burrows her den, where she will sleep through the winter, giving birth to two to three cubs in January, February or March. Weighing less than a half a kilo when born, newborn cubs gain weight very quickly, due to the high fat content of their mother’s milk (about 33%).
Grizzly mothers form deep bonds with their cubs, fiercely protecting them from predators or adult males who have been known to kill and eat young cubs to trigger the females heat cycle and insure more reproduction; or alternately when food sources are scarce. She will keep her cubs close by her side until they are two years old. The high quality habitats of the coast mountain ranges of the mainland of British Columbia with its rich salmon rivers, extensive huckleberry patches, grassy slopes and river banks are capable of maintaining support to a large number of grizzly bears.
Eighty-one percent of historic grizzly bear range in BC maintains healthy populations, in fact, half of Canada’s grizzly bear population lives in British Columbia and one out of every four bears remaining in North America resides here. The BC Wildlife Branch estimates that 10,000 to 13,000 Grizzly bears live in British Columbia; conservative estimates which are being corroborated by active research at 20 different research sites spread across the province.
Grizzly bears are neither threatened nor endangered in British Columbia; they are classified as vulnerable mainly because of social intolerance by humans to living in close proximity to the bears, industrialisation, urbanisation and easy access to garbage, farm animals and other human detritus.