Grizzly Bears

It all started in the summer of 2018, when my wife and I received a call from our good friend Suze who lived on the west coast and is an dedicated advocate for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Suze was organizing a September trip onboard the Achiever; Raincoast’s Research sailing yacht, with some fellow real estate agents and was wondering if we wanted to join the group.

September came quickly and we boarded our twin turboprop aircraft and took off for Bella Bella on the central west coast of British Columbia.Within a couple of days we were deep into the waterways of the Great Bear Rainforest. It wasn't difficult to find inspiration within this absolutely magnificent wilderness.

As a wildlife conservation artist, this was a dream come true. Between the Grizzly bears and their newly born cubs, Humpback whales, Harbour Seals, Sea Lions, Dall’s Porpoises and hundreds of Bald Eagles, it was difficult to decide in which direction I should point my lens. 

The grizzly (Ursus arctos) is the second largest North American land carnivore, or meat-eater, and, like the larger polar bear, has a prominent hump over the shoulders formed by the muscles of its massive forelegs.

The Grizzly’s unique features are its somewhat dished face and its extremely long front claws.

Its colour ranges from nearly white or ivory yellow to black. Some are of uniform colour, but many Grizzlies have light or grizzled fur on the head and shoulders, a dark body, and sometimes darker feet and legs. The body shape and long fur tend to make Grizzlies look heavier than they actually are. Although Grizzly Bears have been known to weigh as much as 500 kg, the average male weighs 250 to 350 kg and the female about half that.

Grizzly bears often live to be around 20 to 25 years of age  Mating occurs from May through July with a peak in mid-June. Female grizzlies begin bearing young at 3 to 8 years of age, and litter size varies from one to four cubs, with an average litter of two. Grizzly bears have a promiscuous mating system: cubs from the same litter can have different fathers.

Cubs are born in the den in late January or early February and remain with the female for 2 to 3 years before the mother mates again and produces another litter. Grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, due to their late age of first reproduction, small average litter size, and the long interval between litters: it may take a single female 10 years to replace herself in a population.

The female that we came across had triplets, all were healthy and so far have survived to be almost 4 years old. 

Female grizzly bear stop breeding in their mid-to late 20s. The typical female may give birth to a maximum of 10 cubs over her lifetime, half of which usually die within a year. Surviving cubs usually remain with the mother for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years, during which time the mother will not mate.