The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), also known as the silvertip bear, is a subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos) that lives in the uplands of western North America.
Normally a solitary active animal, in coastal areas the grizzly congregates alongside streams, lakes, and rivers during the salmon spawn. Every other year females, (sows) produce one to four young (most commonly two) which are small and weigh only about 500 grams
(one pound). Sows are very protective of their offspring, and will
attack the predator, if the female Grizzly thinks it's being threatened.
Grizzly bears reach weights of 180–680 kilograms (400–1,500 pounds) and stand 2.44 m (8 ft) tall on their hind legs; males are on average 38% larger than females. This sexual dimorphism
suggests that size is an important factor in the male's ability to
successfully compete for and attract breeding opportunities. Their
coloring ranges widely across geographic areas, from blond to deep
brown or red. These differences, once attributed to subspeciation, are
now thought to be primarily due to the different environments these
bears inhabit, particularly with regard to diet and temperature.
The grizzly has a large hump over the shoulders, which is a muscle
mass used to power the forelimbs in digging. The head is large and
round with a concave facial profile. In spite of their massive size,
these bears can run at speeds of up to forty kilometers per hour (twenty-five miles per hour).
Grizzlies can be distinguished from most other brown bear subspecies
by their proportionately longer claws and cranial profile which
resembles that of the polar bear.
Compared to other North American brown bear subspecies, a grizzly's
pelt is silver tipped and is smaller in size. This size difference is
due to the lesser availability of food in the grizzlies landlocked
habitats.They are similar in size, color and behavior to the Siberian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos collaris).
How to Survive a Bear Attack
- Identify what type of bear you are up against. A Polar bear,
Grizzly or brown bear will weigh upwards of 800lbs, fighting one
would be suicide. A black bear however would weight around 300lbs.
Ironically a greater percentage of attacks on the part of a black
bear are predatory in nature.
Note: Attacking a bear is foolhardy and cannot be justified
for the sake of a fight DO NOT FIGHT A BEAR FOR THE SAKE OF
FIGHTING A BEAR wikihow and its authors will not be responsible
for your mistake.
- Defensive vs Predatory: It is important to recognize if
you are facing a defensive bear or a predatory bear. If you find
yourself being physically assailed by a male black bear or an
unaccompanied female bear the best order of business is to treat
your personal defense as if a large cat were attacking you. This is
because just like a large cat a predatory bear will not stop
attacking you if you go into the fetal position. This differs
drastically from a defensive bear, who upon discovering you are not
a threat, will leave. Therefore if the bear is predatory in affect,
the best defense is a good offense.
- Yell at the bear. Show it you are not afraid. This will put you
and the bear on equal footing. The bear now knows he is not getting
his food without a fight. Also note that if a bear perceives vastly
superior aggression he will most likely leave.
- If the bear has attacked you without provocation it will most
likely keep attacking you until you are dead. In turn the bears
prey drive may overcome its ability to distinguish pain and or the
threat you pose to it. If that is the case you may need to kill the
- Understanding your odds: Bears can run up to 35MPH,
Black bears have gotten up to 840 pounds. Almost all black bear
vital organs are protected by no less than four inches of muscle
and fat. One record showed that a baby black bear hunting for grubs
moved a boulder with one forepaw, this boulder weighed 350lbs. The
bear was latter captured and was found to weigh 110lbs. Bears have
extreme amounts of stamina and can run at full speed for miles on
end. Bear olifactory awareness is very acute and can extend in a
bubble outward, up to 2 miles away. Only black bears and smaller
species can climb up a tree, however other larger bears have been
known to knock them down.
- Understanding bear weaknesses: Bears are very
shortsighted and have very poor peripheral vision hence the reason
they stand on their hind legs (to get a better view and smell).
They cannot stand erect on a steep grade. Their neck muscles and
jaw structure provide more resistance for turning their necks.
Bears have smaller brains and less visual processing ability.
- Exploiting bear weaknesses:by defending yourself on a
steep grade you can ensure that a bear will at least have a
difficult time standing erect. From that position they can
ultimately use their own weight to harm you. Also note that that
attacks from the side are difficult for the bear to see. However
they attack horizontally as well inhibiting your own horizontal
- Defense: One cannot take a strike from an adult bear,
these large swipes have been known to kill elk and deer in one
movement. Distance is your ally while you attack. Bare handed one
does not have a safe enough reach to harm the bear. Strait line
kicks such as the gastropedes will be your most effective strike.
This manouvour is the stereotypical police door breach kick. While
you do this strike it is important that you draw your leg back
quickly as failure to do so may give the bear time enough to swipe
your inner thigh effectively disarming you.
- Gastropedes effectiveness: The gastropedes was
originally used by Greek pankration fighters as a gut kick.
However, on a hill, the bear will be lower than you and will lead
its attack with its head because of the difficulties of standing. A
bears neck, Skull and rigid jaw muscles can be used as resistance.
If done correctly a landed kick to the face may cause hemorrhage
due to a bears resistance to whiplash.
- Threat Assessment: At this point it is important to
recognize that the bear will see you as a threat. Observe that it
will either run away or continue its assault until it has removed
its perceived threat. Strike and move uphill, strike and move
uphill. Four things must be kept in your head for this to work.
Quickness, Distance, Aggression and Strike Power in that
- Small bears including black bears can be scared away with
noise. However larger bears are curious and will come towards
noise. That includes large black bears.
- Almost all small bears can climbs trees. Larger bears have been
known to knock them down.
How to Escape from a Bear
Bears are among nature’s most majestic creatures, and seeing one
in the wild is an unforgettable experience. Get too close, however,
and your encounter with a bear can be more terrifying than
awe-inspiring. Fortunately, despite humans’ continued encroachment
into “bear country," attacks on people are rare, and fatalities are
even rarer. Still, bears are immense, powerful wild animals, and
any meeting between bears and humans can potentially turn deadly.
Do you know what to do if you find yourself face to face with a
bear? Read on, and hike safely.
Avoid close encounters. If you can prevent an encounter with a
bear, the rest of the steps are unnecessary. As luck would have it,
bears are reclusive creatures, and they generally prefer to steer
clear of humans. You can help them to do so by announcing your
presence when you’re exploring their home environment: talk loudly,
sing, or carry "bear bells" so bears have time to escape you. Be
sure to heed local bear advisories and practice proper food storage
techniques while camping, and try to hike in open areas so that a
bear can see you (or you can see it) from a distance. Leave dogs at
home or keep them leashed. If you see bear tracks, make a detour or
leave the area. Avoid surprising bears.
- Keep your distance. If you see a bear from a long distance
(greater than 300 feet), leave the area. If you need to continue
on, make a wide detour around the bear. If the bear has not seen
you, do not disturb it: retreat calmly and quietly, and then make
ample noise when you are well away to prevent future chance
encounters. If the bear sees you, begin speaking in a low, calm
voice (it doesn’t matter what you say) and retreat slowly, keeping
an eye on the bear but avoiding direct eye contact. Your goal is to
communicate to the bear that you are human (i.e. that you can
defend yourself and are not frightened) while also letting it know
that you are non-threatening, and that you are leaving its
- Stand tall, even if the bear charges you. If the bear sees you
and is closer than 300 feet, or if the bear is approaching you,
remain calm and try to look as large as possible. Try to back away
slowly—do not run—and speak softly. If the bear continues to
approach as you back away, stop and stand your ground. Speak more
loudly in a deep, calm voice, and wave you arms to make yourself
look bigger. Keep an eye on the bear, but avoid direct eye contact.
Do not be aggressive, but do not crouch down, play dead or
otherwise show fear or vulnerability. If the bear charges you,
muster all your courage and stay where you are: the charge is most
likely a bluff, and if you stand your ground the bear will turn
Know your bear. The steps you take to survive an encounter with a
bear will depend in part on the type of bear. North America has
three kinds of bears: brown bears (grizzly and Kodiak brown bears),
black bears, and polar bears. Polar bears, of course, are easily
recognizable, and their range is limited to the far northern
latitudes. Grizzlies and black bears cannot necessarily be
differentiated by their colors. Grizzly bears can weigh up to 800
lbs., and they are distinguished by a prominent shoulder hump and a
rump lower than the shoulder. Black bears are typically smaller (up
to 400 lbs.), and have a rump higher than or at roughly the same
level as the shoulder. If you see tracks, grizzly bears have claw
marks well separated from the paw imprints, while black bears’ claw
marks will be quite close to the paw imprint.
- "Shrink" the bear. A little bear psychology can go a long
way—your response to an attack should be shaped by the bear’s
motivations. First, if a bear appears to be stalking you
(disappearing and reappearing, for example), or if a bear attacks
at night, it most likely sees you as food, and any attack will be
predatory. If you surprise a bear on the trail, if the bear has
cubs, or if the bear is eating from or protecting a carcass, the
bear will most likely be acting in self-defense.
- Climb a tree only under the right circumstances. Black bears
are adept climbers, so climbing a tree will do you no good with one
of them. Grizzlies, too, can climb a little, and they can reach up
to 12 feet into the tree from the ground. Only consider climbing a
tree if you encounter a grizzly and you are confident you can make
it well up (at least 15 feet, but preferably 30 feet) into a sturdy
tree by the time the bear reaches you. Bears are fast, so do not
try to race a bear to a tree—you will lose. This approach is
usually only viable if you are right next to the tree, and you’re a
- Play dead if a grizzly bear or polar bear makes a non-predatory
attack. If the bear (other than a black bear) is attacking you in
self-defense, you can put it at ease (and save yourself) by playing
dead by lying completely flat on the ground. Do so only after the
bear makes contact with you or tries to do so. (In the past, bear
experts recommended that one fall to the ground in a fetal position
but researchers have since proven that doing this only allows the
bear to easily flip over the human in question.) To play dead, lie
flat on the ground protecting your vital parts with the ground, and
your arms protecting your neck with your hands laced behind the
neck. Keep your legs together and do not struggle. Once the bear
leaves your immediate vicinity, wait several minutes before
carefully looking to see if the bear is still around. A bear may
look back and may return if it sees you moving.
Fight a black bear attack or any predatory attack. If the bear is a
black bear, or if you have determined that the bear sees you as
food (this is actually quite rare, and more common with black bears
and, some say, polar bears than with grizzlies), your only chance
of escape is to fight it or scare it away. Hit the bear with rocks,
pots, pans, sticks or fists—anything handy, really. The odds may
seem against you in a fight, but bears generally do not see humans
as prey, and a bear that makes a predatory attacks is usually
immature, starving, or wounded, and may easily be scared away if
you hit it.
- While a bear standing on its hind legs appears very
intimidating, this is usually a gesture of curiosity, and the bear
is just trying to get a better look at you.
- Carry bear spray. Bear spray is pepper spray in a specially
designed container, and it has proven to be an invaluable
deterrent. You will need to wait until the bear is close to you,
however, (about 15-20 feet), before you can effectively deploy it.
Be careful, though. Bears in some regions such as Yellowstone and
The Grand Tetons have become accustomed to bear spray. When they
are sprayed, they will turn their heads. A direct spray to the face
is the only way you will be able to deter a bear. In most cases,
you will only have one shot at this, so make it your best. A way to
get around this is to spray a quick short spray at the bear. If the
bear turns on this spray you will not have wasted all your
- If you have a firearm, use it to save your life if needed. This
is no time for gun rights discussions. This bear will kill or maim
you. If it comes down to it use the weapon if you know how
to use it properly. If you must shoot a bear, wait until it is
close (30 or 40 feet at most), and aim for the low neck or chest
area. If you injure or kill the bear, be certain to report the
encounter to the proper authorities.
- If you need to play dead and you’re wearing a large backpack,
the pack will add some protection to your vital areas, and you can
lie on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Use
your legs and elbows to try to prevent the bear from flipping you
over, but do not struggle. If you look dead and harmless, a
defensive bear will usually leave you alone.
- Do not keep food in your tent when camping. Always use proper
food storage containers or suspend your food at least four meters
off the ground using a park food pole or suspended between two
trees. There are items called "bear bins" that you can buy or rent,
to store foodstuffs. Remember that most species of bear are
- Bears are attracted to smells, so keep all your trash together
and don't keep it near where you are sleeping. Be sure to stow or
dispose of properly of any medical supplies or hygiene products
that have blood on them. Zip lock bags provide some
- Never surprise a bear — let it know you're coming. Many hikers
like to walk with cow bells or tie small bells to their feet, but
many bear experts say this is not as good as talking, singing or
clapping loudly as you walk. Bears are a lot more likely to
recognize you as human by your voice than by a bell.
- If possible, walk upwind — that is, with your back to the wind.
Let your scent alert any bears to your presence.