Recently, US Interior secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he is directing his staff to accelerate the recovery planning process for the grizzlies in the North Cascades to eventually help restore the grizzly back into the area. Because of that decision, here are some facts about the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos).
[ONE] These bears are often 3-4 feet tall at the shoulder but when standing up, they can be up to 8 feet tall! They can also weigh anywhere between 250-600 pounds and are omnivores and opportunistic eaters. Not much is known about their diet in the North Cascades but grizzlies in other areas have a diet that consists primarily of vegetation (i.e. berries, grass, roots, bulbs). They’ve also been known to eat dead animals, insects, fish, and will steal killed animals from other predators. [Information from: North Cascades National Park]
[TWO] They’re called ‘grizzlies’ because of their fur actually! Edward Umfreville was a Canadian explorer/author and was the first to officially document this species in writing in 1790. He described them as the ‘grizzle bear’, referring to their mix of dark and white hairs. Five years after that documentation, Scottish explorer Sir Alexander MacKenzie documented some tracks and attributed them to a ‘grisly bear’. Lewis and Clark even helped cement the bear’s place in history in 1805 but even they used both ‘grisly’ and later on, ‘grizzly’ to describe it.
- Why returning grizzlies to the North Cascades is the right thing to do by Ron Judd, Seattle Times
[THREE] The grizzly population in the North Cascades is very, very tiny and human intervention (in the form of reintroduction) might be the best way to help this species survive in the area. While there are many other bears in the area, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the current grizzly population in the area is less than 20 bears.
[FOUR] The odds that you’ll have a run in with a grizzly bear in the North Cascades is very slim now and that’ll probably still stay the same with the slow introduction of grizzlies, as they have a slow reproduction system and they don’t like to interact with people. One option that’s being considered has the grizzly population growing to be around 100 bears in the North Cascades within a few decades.
- Human-grizzly conflict is fueled by desperation by Gloria Dickie, Hakai Magazine
[FIVE] Grizzly bears are important to the ecosystem they live in and are considered an ‘umbrella species’. An ‘umbrella species’ is a species whose protections in turn help protect other animals in the same ecosystem. By protecting grizzly bears and their habitat, there are other animals in the same ecosystem that are indirectly helped.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: There are resources on how to stay safe in bear country, something that can be beneficial for both humans and grizzlies. If you’re planning a hike or overnight trip into any bear country, it’ll be important to know how to safely interact with any bear.