Wild Profile: Meet the grizzly bear

Grizzly bear running through the water By Islandwave/Shutterstock

Summer means lovin’ for the grizzly bear. As the weather heats up, so does the bruin dating scene. Male and female grizzlies use their strong sense of smell—they can nose out another animal even from three kilometres away—to find each other when it’s mating time in early summer. Lady bears (a.k.a. sows) leave an alluring hormone trail by rubbing on trees; usually multiple males (a.k.a. boars) track it down. Sometimes this leads to brawling.

Smackdown! Two grizzly bears duke it out on a northern B.C. highway.

But bears are also hungry for something else: actual food. Grizzlies are omnivorous, but get most of their nourishment from nuts, seeds, and plants. They’ll graze on cow parsnip, clover, wildflower bulbs, and even grass. That said, if meat is on the menu, they’d much prefer it. An adult grizzly can take down a moose, but, as a top-of-the-food-chain predator, a bear will eat almost any mammal, including rodents dug right out of their dens.

Bears eat all summer long to prepare for their epic winter hibernation. They scarf 30,000 calories per day. That’s about 95 avocados, or 105 slices of pizza, or a really, really huge amount of garden salad. No wonder an adult male can weigh 800 pounds!

Once breeding time is over, bears keep to themselves. Females, however, give birth to their cubs—usually two or three—during hibernation. Baby bears stick with Mom for up to three years before venturing off on their own. For this reason, plus the fact that females don’t mate until they’re at least four years old, grizzly bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all mammals.

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