Animals Nature

Brown Bear

relaxing bear

Brown bears are found throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  The American bears are known as grizzlies.  The ones in Alaska are called Kodiak bears.  It is a Kodiak Moment when they are captured on camera.  The Kodiaks are the second largest members of the Carnivora order.  Polar bears are the biggest.

Brown bear taxonomy is confusing and placing the bears into subspecies is difficult.  Modern genetic testing has proven to be the most reliable.  Hundreds of obsolete subspecies have been identified over the years.  Around ninety have been proposed as relevant.  Today there are under twenty.  Fossil records reveal that the polar bear split away from the species over one hundred and fifty thousand years ago.  Brown bears are considered the paraspecies for their northern brothers (and sisters).

The fabled hybrid crossbreed between a polar bear and brown bear was documented in the wild in 2006.  It was found in the Canadian Arctic.  Successful breeding had occurred in captivity pre-confirmation.  Seven additional hybrids were located and traced to a sole female polar bear.  The ursid fusion is known as a grolar bear or prizzly bear.  Females are called princess prizzlies.  The male…captain prizz.

sleepy brown bear
Sleepy Brown bear – Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Are Brown bears brown?

Brown bears are not exclusively the color brown.  A thick mane of fur fills the back of their neck and has a varied coloration.  Indian brown bears are filled with red and silver tipped hair.  Chinese variants are dichromatic.  Yellow brown and white permeates their shoulders, chest and neck.  The term grizzly is derived from the North American coloration.  The hair follicles have a black base that is filtered with cream-colored tips that forms their grizzled appearance.

Size and hair length varies among the seasons.  Winter fur is thick and around four to five inches long.  The hair is thin and rough.  Summer coats are sparse and short.  Their density is distinctive among each subspecies.  Height varies too.  Brown bear shoulders extend from two and half to five feet from the ground.  Their length ranges between four feet seven inches and nine feet two inches long.  A petite stout tail measures under nine and over two inches.  Four hundred and seventy-five pounds is the average male weight.  The lady bears clock in at three hundred and thirty-five pounds.

Mating occurs from May to July.  Northern bears copulate later than southern ones.  They show no sexual interest in each other outside of breeding.  Males never raise their cubs.  The female does the parenting.  If the mama bear does not accumulate enough weight in the winter, she will reabsorb the embryo into her body.  The average litter size is three.  Four cubs are considered uncommon.  Five or six is possible, but rare.

brown bear baby
Baby Brown bear – Photo Credit: Logan Brumm Photography and Design

Baby Bears

The baby brown bears (bbb) are born toothless, hairless and blind.  They weigh one pound and are fully dependent on their mothers.  Survival techniques are taught and not inherited.  Cubs imitate the matriarch and gain their independence by the age of three.  The exact age varies and is lower throughout the Eurasia subspecies.

Brown bears are omnivorous and consume the greatest variety of food among all types of bears.  They will sample any organism they encounter.  Their carnivorous reputation is a myth.  Ninety percent of their diet is vegetable based.  Berries, grasses, nuts, pine cones, fungi, plants and flowers are among their favorites.  Long claws allow them to penetrate deep into the ground and forage for shoots, roots and bulbs.  Bugs are common and costal brown bears dine on crabs and clams.  Others eat birds and of course…salmon.

Elk, moose, muskoxen, boar and caribou all fall prey when a brown bear craves meat.  Carrion is important in the first months of spring after hibernation.  Tigers and other species of bears are their only predators  When they engage in combat with a tiger, the results are mixed.  A draw is declared a quarter of the time and they perish in half of all encounters.  A victory lap is taken in the other fourth.

hunting brown bear
A Brown bear kissing a wild salmon somewhere in Alaska – Photo Credit: brewbooks

Wild brown bears live to be twenty-five years old.  The oldest recorded was thirty-seven.  The most senior female in captivity was forty-seven.  The eldest male was fifty.  Females live longer in the wild.  The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has brown bears registered as a species of Least concern.  There is an estimated population of two hundred thousand worldwide. 

Scientific Classification

Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
Species: U. arctos

Brown Bear Subspecies

SubspeciesName
Ursus arctos arctos Eurasian brown bear (Europe and Russia)
Ursus arctos beringianus Kamchatkan brown bear (Russia)
Ursus arctos collaris East Siberian brown bear (Siberia)
Ursus arctos dalli Dall Island brown bear (Alaska)
Ursus arctos gobiensis Gobi bear (Dobi Desert in East Asia)
Ursus arctos gyas Alaska Peninsula brown bear (Alaska)
Ursus arctos horribilis Grizzly bear (North America)
Ursus arctos isabellinus Himalayan brown bear (China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Tibet)
Ursus arctos lasiotus Ussuri brown bear (Russia)
Ursus arctos marsicanus Marsican brown bear (Italy)
Ursus arctos middendorffi Kodiak bear (Sitkalidak, Kodiak, Raspberry, Afognak, Shuyak, and Uganik)
Ursus arctos pruinosus Tibetan blue bear (Tibet)
Ursus arctos pyrenaicus Cantabrian brown bear (Cantabrian mountains, Iberian Peninsula and Portugal)
Ursus arctos sitkensisSitka brown bear (Alaska)
Ursus arctos stikeenensis Stickeen brown bear (Canada)
Ursus arctos syriacus Syrian brown bear (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon , Afghanistan and Israel)
relaxing bear
A jocular Brown bear – Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack

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