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Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

Distribution

(McLellan et al 2008)

Most widespread bear in the world.

  • Europe
  • Middle East
  • Asia
  • Western Canada and western U.S.

Historically, distribution much wider.

  • In lower 48 U.S., original range reduced by 98% less than 100 years after arrival of Europeans. (Garshelis 2009)
  • Local and regional extinctions (extirpations) occurred:
    • Northern Mexico (in 1960s) and much of southwestern U.S
    • California (last one shot 1922); still on flag as official state mammal
    • North Africa (in 1500s in Sinai Peninsula of Egypt; survived untill 1800s in Algeria & Morocco)
    • Extinct more than 500 years ago (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Jordan, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Tunisia, United Kingdom)
    • Extinct during last 500 years (Algeria, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Palestinian Territory Occupied, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland)
  • May be extinct in Syria & Bhutan.

Very small populations remain in Nepal & Iraq, French and Andorran Pyrenees Mountains.

Ranges of Polar and Grizzly Bears overlap in N. Canada, N. Alaska, and Chukotka, Russia

Habitat

 Occupy a wide variety of habitats, more than any other bear species. (McLellan 2008)

  • Dry asian steppes
  • Arctic shrublands
  • Temperate rain forests

Elevation range: sea level to 5,000 m (16,404 ft)

Habitat use by females with young differs from that of males. (Rode et al 2006)

  • Females with young avoid areas where male bears hunt or fish;
  • Females may frequent areas visited by humans rather than encounter male bears;
  • Infanticide by males is the danger they try to avoid

Habitat use varies seasonally.

  • Migrate to higher elevations as plant foods become available
  • Shift to coastal areas and streams, when accessible, for salmon and other fish
  • Move to lower elevations for early berry crops, when present; then move higher to follow ripening fruits

Distribution Map

Brown Bear distribution map

Brown Bear distribution.

Adapted from d.-maps.com according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

Page Citations

McLellan et al (2008)
Pasitschniak-Arts (1993)
Rode et al (2006)

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