Brown Bear

While brown bears are pretty to look at, getting too close can be downright dangerous.


What do brown bears look like?

Everyone recognizes them at first sight: brown bears are the most well-known members of the bear family. With their broadheads, long snouts, and small, round ears, they look like real cuddly teddies. But be careful: they are predators!

Depending on where they live, they are small or huge: they can be between two and three meters long and weigh 150 to 780 kilograms – almost as much as a small car. The smallest brown bears live in the Alps and are just about the size of a St. Bernard.

Brown bears in Scandinavia and western Russia are significantly larger. True giants among the brown bears can be found in Asia and North America: the grizzly bears and the Kodiak bears, some of which weigh over 700 kilograms, are the largest land predators on earth.

The color of their thick fur is also quite different: from reddish blonde to light and dark brown to brown-black. Some, like the grizzlies, are grayer – that’s why they are also called grizzly bears.

All have short, strong legs with large paws and long claws which, unlike cats, they cannot retract. Brown bears only have a tiny stubby tail. It is so small that it is completely hidden in the dense fur and cannot be seen.

Where do brown bears live?

Brown bears were formerly found from western North Africa to Europe (except Iceland and the Mediterranean islands), Asia (to Tibet), and North America. In many regions, such as North Africa and Western Europe, they have been wiped out.

In some areas of Europe, however, there are still a few animals. In the meantime, a few bears have been resettled in Austria. Today, most brown bears are found in Russia and North America. In Europe, there are said to be around 10,000 brown bears – spread over small areas – in Spain, Russia, Turkey, Scandinavia, and Italy. Brown bears prefer to live in large, extensive deciduous and coniferous forests. They also live far north on the tundra.

Which brown bear species are there?

There are many different subspecies of the brown bear, which differ greatly in size and color: European brown bears live in central, southern, northern, and eastern Europe, the Isabella brown bear in the Himalayas, the Syrian brown bear in Syria. The Kamchatka bear lives on Russia’s Pacific coast and is much larger than its European relatives.

The largest brown bears are found in North America: the grizzly bear and the Kodiak bear. The Kodiak bear is the giant among brown bears and is considered the most powerful land predator on earth: the males can weigh up to 800 kilograms, some even up to 1000 kilograms, the females up to 500 kilograms.

The Kodiak bear is found only on Kodiak Island – after which it is named – and a few neighboring islands off the south coast of Alaska. The lifestyle of the Kodiak bear corresponds to that of the other brown bears.

How old do brown bears get?

Brown bears live up to 35 years.


How do brown bears live?

Brown bears are active both day and night. However, they are so shy that they roam almost exclusively at night in areas where they are often disturbed. In general, there is hardly a chance of seeing a bear in Europe.

They hear and smell a human long before they even suspect a brown bear might be there. Bears always avoid people. They only become dangerous when threatened or injured – or when a mother bear defends her cubs. Brown bears usually run around on all fours, but if they sense something or threaten an attacker, they stand up on their hind legs – and then they look really huge and strong as a bear.

Bears are a little different from other predators: it’s hard to tell if they’re angry or peaceful. That’s because they don’t have facial expressions; their facial expression is almost always exactly the same, no movement is recognizable. Even if they usually appear sluggish and calm, they can run lightning-fast over short distances. Grizzlies are almost as fast as a horse.

Bears spend the winter in burrows in the rocks or in the ground, which they line with moss and twigs. They don’t really hibernate there but do hibernate.

They sleep most of the time and don’t eat, instead of feeding off the thick layer of fat they’ve eaten up over the year. By the time they come out of their den in the spring, they will have lost almost a third of their weight. The bear also gives birth to her cubs in this winter quarter.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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