Grizzly bears are a keystone predator Conservation Northwest works hard to protect. They are extremely rare in Washington and need our help to recover.
Ursus arctos horribilis
Grizzly bears are intelligent, strong, courageous – and adaptable. They have lived in North America, including the North Cascades and Selkirks of Washington, for thousands of years. Along with mountain caribou and wolverines, they are animals who survived the last great ice ages on the North American continent.
Protection status: In the U.S. the grizzly bear is listed as threatened, with as few as 10 left in the North Cascades.
Persecuted and hunted nearly to extinction in the last two centuries, the history of grizzly bears is a sobering one. In the lower 48 states, Yellowstone National Park is one place where bears are doing well. But other grizzly bear populations, like the US North Cascades grizzly bear or those in southwest BC, are in desperate trouble and in need of immediate recovery.
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What we are doing
Because grizzly bears are habitat generalists and disturbance sensitive animals with large home ranges, their conservation benefits dozens of other wildlife and sensitive habitats, from low-elevation wetlands to subalpine berry fields. Indicators of ecosystem health, grizzly bears mold their habitat in subtle but important ways.
Conservation Northwest has worked to protect and recover grizzly bears across the Canadian border and in Washington since our founding in 1989. Today we are protecting and connecting grizzly bear populations and habitat in British Columbia and the US. Without these bears, the health of our ecosystems and wilderness areas would be severely diminished.
More about grizzly bears
- Adult grizzly bears usually live to 20 to 25 years of age.
- Females do not reproduce until they are 5 to 6 years old, giving birth to an average of two cubs per breeding cycle. Grizzly bear cubs remain with their mother for 2 to 4 years.
- Female bears usually require 50 to 300 square miles of range; males require 200 to 500 square miles. Ranges of individual bears often overlap, with several bears sharing an area.
- Grizzly bears have good eyesight (about like that of a person) but excellent senses of hearing and smell (better than that of a dog).
- Grizzly bears are intelligent and curious—and have an excellent memory, particularly regarding food sources.
- As opportunistic omnivores, grizzly bears have a typical diet of less than 10% fish or meat, much of that carrion from winter-killed deer and elk. Grizzly bears in coastal areas are an exception: for these bears, fish (mostly salmon) comprise a larger proportion of their diet.
- The grizzly bear’s claws are used mainly for digging roots. Grizzly summer foods include thistle, cow parsnip, roots, mushrooms, wild berries, spawning fish, and insects, including ants.
- Grizzlies have an important tie to wolves - wolf-killed carrion is an important source of food for grizzly bears.
- Grizzlies are incorrectly portrayed as voracious predators. In fact, they are normally reclusive creatures who act aggressively toward humans only in specific situations, usually when they feel startled or threatened by human actions, generally around bear cubs or food sources.
- Grizzly bears differ from black bears by their prominent shoulder hump, longer claws, shorter ears, and a dish-faced profile. In most places they are also much less numerous than black bears. For example, in the North Cascades of Washington there are an estimated 5 to 20 grizzly bears but as many as 6,000 black bears.