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Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Fact Sheet: Summary

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Fact Sheet

Brown Bear in snow

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Linnaeus 1758

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Subfamily: Caniforma

Genus: Ursus

Species: Ursus arctos

Body Weight:
Male 130-550 kg (287-1213 lb)
Female 80-250 kg (176-551 lb)

Head/Body Length (Males & Females):
1-2.8 m (3.3-9.2 ft)

Shoulder Height: up to 1.5 m (5 ft)

Tail Length: 60-200 mm (2-8 in)

Pelage: Pale tan, blond, gold, many shades of brown to black, gray or silver; grizzly's guard hairs pale at tips.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Europe, Middle East, Asia, northwestern U.S., western Canada

Habitat: Widest variety of habitats of any bear species; dry asian steppes, temperate forests; sea level to 5,000 m (16,404 ft)

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2016 assessment)

CITES Appendix:
Appendix I: central Asia (Mongolia, China, Bhutan) and Mexico;
Appendix II: rest of world, except Alaskan populations

Population in Wild: More than 200,000

Locomotion: Normal gait - slow shuffle; walk 5.5-6 km/hr; gallop 56 km/hr (35 mp/h)

Activity Cycle: Diurnal in North America (but active day and night when food scarce); largely nocturnal in Europe; in cold climates undergo winter dormancy.

Social Groups: Lasting bonds only between female and young.

Diet: Wide variety of plants and animals; diet more carnivorous than that of American and Asiatic black bears.

Predators: Mainly humans; rare attacks in Siberia by tigers.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual: Female - 3.5 yrs; first cubs 4-8 yrs; Male - about 5.5 yrs.

Gestation: 6-7 months

Litter Size: 2 - 3 common; up to 4

Birth weight: 400-500 g (14-18 oz)

Age at Weaning: 1.5-2.5 years

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: typical life expectancy not known
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 22 years in males and 27 years in females

Feature Facts

  • Rely on wide variety of seasonally available plant and animal food items: berries, pine seeds, grasses, roots, tubers, honey, ants, moths, small rodents, calves of moose, muskoxen, caribou, elk, and salmon.
  • Most widespread bear in the world
  • Shoulder hump, concave snout and smaller ears distinguish Brown Bear from Black Bear.
  • Mother bears with young are extremely defensive and will attack male bears.
  • Have lowest reproduction rate of any mammal,  females start breeding at 5-6 years of age with 3-4 years between litters.
  • In a new enrichment strategy as of 2010, exhibit spaces have been connected for two young grizzly bears and an elderly Manchurian brown bear at the San Diego Zoo. The bears can now take turns using the whole area; this intelligent and highly curious species benefits greatly from added activities and a chance to smell tracks left by other bears.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2010-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated 2015. Minor updates 2019.

How to cite: Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Fact Sheet. c2010-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. brownbear.
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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