Glacier National Park is home to only two of these species, the American black bear and the brown bear (also know as the grizzly bear).
Brown or Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos)
Color: Can range from blond to nearly black and sometimes have silver-tipped guard hairs that give them a grizzled look
Weight: Adult males 300 - 440 lbs; females 250 - 280 lbs
Top speed: 35 mph
Lifespan: 15 - 25 years
Appearance:Their snout is dished in and there is a noticeable hump above the shoulders. Their claws are about 4 inches long and slightly curved, making them good for digging.
Habitat: Grizzly Bears spend most of their time in meadows but move around looking for food. They can also be found in, forests, avalanche chutes, and places where berry bushes or whitebark pine trees are plentiful.
Diet: A grizzly's diet changes with the seasons. In the spring, they eat grasses, rodents, and carrion; in the summer they feed on leafy, green plants and flowers, insects, and roots, and in the fall they eat berries and pine nuts. They will also eat large and small mammals, fruit, bark, roots, and mushrooms when they are available.
Reproduction: Mating season is May-early July. Females breed every 2-4 years and give birth to 1-3 cubs in their winter dens in January or February. Cubs weigh 1 lb. at birth and are nursed to about 20 lbs. before coming out of the den in April or May. They stay with their mother through the next 2 winters. Grizzlies are usually full grown in 4-6 years. Females have their first litter when they are about 5 years old.
Black Bears (Ursus americanus)
Appearance: Their snout is straighter from tip of nose to ears. Their claws are short (about 1.5 inches) and curved, making them good for climbing trees.
Habitat: Black bears spend most of their time in forests but move around looking for food. They can also be found in avalanche chutes, mountain meadows, or areas where berry bushes are plentiful.
Diet: A black bear's diet changes with the seasons. In the spring bears eat mostly grasses; in the summer they like leafy, green plants and fruits; and in the fall they look for berries and nuts. They will also eat fruits, insects, honey, eggs, carrion, rodents, and young deer or elk when available.
Reproduction: Mating season is May-August. Females breed every 2-3 years and give birth to 1-3 cubs in their winter den in January or February. Cubs weigh 1lb. at birth but can weigh as much as 165lbs. (if good food sources are available) by their first fall. Cubs stay with their mother for about 2 years. Females often have their cubs when they are about 6 years old.
Look! To view pictures, see distribution maps, and find more information about bears-look at the MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Field Guide.
Check out this exciting bear research! Scientists collected bear hair from rub trees and posts to estimate how many grizzly and black bears live in our ecosystem. Listen to Research Ecologist Kate Kendall explain this cutting-edge DNA project. Click here to see the results of the Bear DNA Research in the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project.
Scientists working on this project certainly had to get their hands dirty. Find out how when you listen to Amy MacCleod's story about making scent lures.
Remote cameras used in this project also caught bears and other wildlife on video. Click here to see the footage.
Look! Grizzly bears are a threatened species. They could become endangered in the near future throughout all or part of their range. Visit the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Grizzly Bear Homepage to find out more.
Did You Know?
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the park with a length of 10 miles and a depth of 472 feet. The glacier that carved the Lake McDonald valley is estimated to have been around 2,200 feet thick.