Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

September 1994


Grizzly/brown bears (Ursus arctos) of the world include numerous subspecies in Asia, Europe, and North America. The interior grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) is generally smaller than the coastal (Ursus arctos gyas) or island (Ursus arctos middendorffi) subspecies of North American brown bear, and it has the classic “grizzled” hair tips. Brown bears in general are very large and heavily built. Wherever brown bears live, their size is influenced by their subspecies status, food supply, and length of the feeding season. Bone growth continues throughthe sixth year, so subadult nutrition often dictates their size potential. Brown bears are typically brown in color, but vary from pure white to black, with coastal brown bears and Kodiak bears generally lighter, even blond or beige. The interior grizzly bears are typically a dark, chocolate brown or black, with pronounced silver tips on the guard hairs. This coloration often gives them a silvery sheen or halo. They lack the neck ruff of the coastal bears, and grizzlies may even have light bands before and behind the front legs. The interior grizzly’s “hump,” an adaptation to their digging lifestyle, is seen less in the coastal brown bears, polar bears, or black bears. The brown bears (including the grizzly) are also characterized by their high eye profile, dish-shaped face, and short, thick ears.