Threatened and Endangered Species Grizzly Bear Fact Sheet
Threatened and Endangered Species: Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos
OFFICIAL STATUS: Threatened. Threatened species are species that are likely to
become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant
portion of their range.
LISTED: 40 Federal Register 145; July 28, 1975.
HISTORICAL STATUS: Grizzly bears once ranged from the Arctic Slope to Central
Mexico and from the Pacific Coast to Minnesota. In Montana, grizzlies were
associated with large buffalo herds, but occurred in forested areas and high
mountains as well. As the bison were basically exterminated, the great bear
disappeared from its primary foothill/river valley range.
PRESENT STATUS: Today, the grizzly mainly occupies high mountain wilderness
areas and associated foothills in western and south central Montana. Grizzlies
are known to use low-elevation habitats, notably along the east front of the
Rocky Mountains and along the base of the Mission Mountains. Grizzlies in the
Cabinet-Yank area are being augmented by Canadian populations. Northern
Continental Divide Ecosystem populations are stable and at recovery levels.
Yellowstone grizzly populations appear to be increasing or stabilizing.
HABITAT: Grizzly bears use a wide variety of habitats within a range of variable
size (7-1,245 square miles) depending on food availability and distribution. A
seasonal elevation gradient is often used including low elevation riparian
areas, snow chutes, and meadows in spring and fall, and higher elevation
habitats such as subalpine forests, alpine tundra, and boulder fields in summer,
early fall and winter. Mixed shrub fields, seeps, grasslands, timbered side hill
parks, and old burns are used for feeding and resting. Dense timbered habitats
are often used for denning and daytime bed sites. In summary, moist open-land
habitats in combination with timbered areas are essential for optimum grizzly
LIFE HISTORY: Grizzly bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any
mammal. Females do not breed until 4-7 years of age and usually produce cubs
every 3 years. Usually, 2 cubs are born in the den and spend the next 2 years
with the mother. The breeding season extends from about mid-April to mid-July.
Except for groups of females with cubs, grizzly bears are solitary animals but
do concentrate at rich feeding sites. Grizzlies eat a wide variety of plant and
AID TO IDENTIFICATION: Grizzly bears are larger than their black bear cousins.
Males average 300-500 pounds; females 150-400 pounds. Fur color varies from
black to blond. Silvery guard hairs often give a grizzled look. Long, straw
colored curved claws, humped shoulders—the shoulder is the highest point on the
back in contrast to the black bear’s where the top of the hips is the highest
point—and a concave muzzle are diagnostic.
REASONS FOR DECLINE: Grizzly bears are wide ranging and require large areas of
undisturbed habitat. Their population decline is primarily associated with
excessive mortality and habitat loss from human encroachment. Oil and gas
development, recreational development, improper livestock grazing, poaching,
excessive roaded access, and poorly designed timber harvest are factors
responsible for the grizzlies’ threatened status.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (if requested by the
landowner) prior to initiating any activities that affect grizzly bear habitat.
Report any suspected grizzly sightings to a wildlife agency.
COMMENTS: Today’s grizzlies are relatively shy and generally avoid contact with
humans. However, they can be very aggressive and dangerous in certain
circumstances. Grizzly bears occasionally kill livestock. Garbage dumps and
carcass piles should not be placed in grizzly habitat.
REFERENCES: Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1993.
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