Black bear vs. Grizzly

Black bear vs. Grizzly

Black bear and grizzly are large mammals that belong to the family of bears. Grizzly is type of brown bear. There are three subspecies of grizzly, that along with black bear, can be found across North America (Mexico, USA and Canada). Both types of bears usually reside in forested areas. Black bear and grizzly are omnivores. Their diet is based on different types of roots, tubers, bulbs, berries, insects, fish, squirrels, marmots, voles and immature mules, deer, elk and caribou. Black bear and grizzly hibernate and produce offspring during the winter. Despite similar morphology and eating habits, black bear and grizzly can be easily differentiated via:


Black bear can be black, dark or light brown, reddish brown or white colored. Many black bears have patch of light-colored fur on the chest and light-colored snout. Grizzly is typically covered with brown fur, but it can be also black or creamy-colored. It has long, guard hairs with light tips that create grizzled appearance (hence the name, grizzly).


Black bear and grizzly vary in size greatly, but grizzly bears are generally larger. Black bear can reach 2.8 to 3 feet of height at the shoulder (and 5 feet in the standing position) and 110 to 400 pounds of weight. Grizzly can reach 3.28 feet of height at the shoulder (and 6.5 feet in the standing position) and 350 to 800 pounds of weight. Unlike black bear, grizzly has large shoulder hump, made of powerful muscles used for digging.

Facial Profile and Size of Ears and Claws

Grizzly bear has prominent depression between the eyes and nose (concave facial profile), small, rounded ears and very long, light-colored claws that are used for digging. Black bear has flat facial profile (straight line runs from the forehead to the tip of the nose), long ears and short, dark claws that facilitate climbing on the trees.


Grizzly bear is more dangerous and more aggressive compared with black bear. Females with cubs are especially aggressive toward intruders. Black bear will attack humans only in self-defense, when it cannot escape. Unlike grizzly, black bear will rather run away or climb on the tree to escape from a dangerous situation. Black bear avoids territories of grizzly bears, while grizzly bear does not hesitate to visit territories of black bears to find food.

Conservation Status

Wild population of black bears is large and stable, while number of grizzly bears is significantly reduced in many areas (grizzly is classified as threatened in Canada).


Black bear can survive 18 (rarely up to 23) years in the wild. Male grizzly bear has an average lifespan of 22 years, while female can survive up to 26 years in the wild.

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