The overall range of these bears has shrunk significantly in the face of increasing urbanization, but hunting pressures have also played a part in their decline.
The ancestors of today’s brown bears crossed into North America over what has since become the Bering Strait, at a time when this area was land. This explains why today the distribution of this species is centred on the western side of North America. As the result of global warming, brown bears are now starting to push further northwards, expanding their range. They prefer relatively open areas of countryside, although in Europe and Asia they usually inhabit forests.
Brown bears live in many parts of the northern hemisphere, and although they belong to a single species, they look rather different from place to place. For example, the brown bears in Europe and Asia are smaller and darker than their American cousins.
Brown bears make their homes in cold places, such as northern forests, mountains and barren tundra. They feed on a range of fruits, plants and small animals. Only grizzlies regularly attack large animal prey, which may include deer and even smaller black bears.
Brown bears are generally solitary, although they may gather in groups around large food supplies, such as schools of salmon beneath waterfalls. As winter approaches, the bears dig themselves dens for semi-hibernation. Although they sleep during most of the winter, they often come out of the den for short periods between sleeps. Mating takes place in early summer. The female gives birth in spring, and her cubs stay with her for at least two years.
Brown bears have humps between their powerful shoulders, and longer claws than most other bears.
Distribution: Occurs in northwestern parts of North America, and across northern Europe and Asia, from Scandinavia eastwards. Also present in some areas further south.
Habitat: Tundra, alpine meadows and forests.
Weight: 97 - 680 kg (213 - 1500 lb); males are heavier.
Length: 180-293cm (71 - 115 in); about 150 cm (59 in) tall.
Maturity: 5 - 7 years; males may not breed until 10.
Gestation Period: 186 - 248 days; embryonic development begins 5 months after fertilization.
Breeding: 1 - 5, averages 2; weaning occurs at 6 - 8 months.
Food: Omnivorous, eating fruit, vegetation, carrion, salmon, grasses, roots, mosses, bulbs, insects, fungi, rodents, deer, mountain sheep and black bears.
Lifespan: Up to 30 years; 40 in captivity.
Status: Endangered in some places.
This distinctive feature of this species is made of muscle.
The brown bear is unique in having a concave facial profile.
In spite of their name, brown bears can vary from shades of blond through brown, almost to black.
These are used for digging and also climbing, and measure around 15 cm (6 in)
ESCAPE FROM HARM
Young bears will flee up trees if they detect danger, with their mother staying at a lower level to defend them.