bears of glacier

There are 8 species of bear found around the world: American black bear, brown bear, polar bear, Asiatic black bear, sun bear, sloth bear, spectacled bear, and the giant panda.

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).

grizzly bears
Grizzly sow with cubs

NPS Photo


Brown or Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos)

Fast Facts:

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
Black bear sow with cub

NPS Photo


Black Bears (Ursus americanus)

Fast Facts
Can be black, blond, brown, or cinnamon in color
Weight: Adult males 180-250lbs, sometimes up to 400lbs; females 120-180lbs
Top speed: 35 mph
Lifespan: Average is 18 years, some live as long as 25 years

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.

magnifying glasses

Look! To view pictures, see distribution maps, and find more information about bears-look at the MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Field Guide.

bear fun
bear coloring page

Color your own bear! Get a coloring page of a grizzly bear or a black bear.

music notes

Sing the "Trail Rules Tune" on the trail or just for fun. Check out the other songs on the Glacier Songs page too!

magnifying glasses

Look! See more photos of black bears and grizzlies in Glacier National Park!

learn more about bears
bear video
Bear sniffing the remote camera

USGS photo

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.

hiking sticker

Learn more about hiking and camping safely

  • Read important safety information.
  • Watch the podcast of John Waller, Glacier's wildlife biologist, explaining how to hike in bear country (located on the park's Backcountry page).
  • View the backcountry video for safety information as well as a great introduction to Glacier!

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800
Phones are generally staffed Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm.

Contact Us