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


(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


 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 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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