Grizzly bears can be identified because of their dish-shaped face, small ears, and a big hump on their back.
These majestic beasts are amazing and highly adaptable animals, but their size, behavior, and strength can be overwhelming for humans, especially if you encounter one.
While these rendezvous are not common, here are a couple of things you might want to know in case you encounter a grizzly bear and are considering climbing a tree to get away from one.
Can grizzly bears climb trees?
Grizzlies do a couple of more things than just scratch their back on the trunk of a tree, like climbing them. For years, people have thought that grizzly bears cannot climb trees, but the truth is grizzly bears can climb trees. Of course, it is not something they are naturally good at, like black bears, because their anatomy, size, weight, and habitats do not require them to be.
A simple comparison between black bears, which can climb up to 15 meters per second, and grizzlies would point out four major factors that prove why they are such poor climbers:
- Habitat: While black bears developed in forested environments, grizzlies developed in open habitats. This biome includes tundra, plains, polar barrens, or any other area that is not covered by trees. Even if their bodies allow them to climb trees, grizzly bears did not develop the necessity to do so because their natural habitats did not require them to reach impressive heights for food.
- Body Structure: The hump on a grizzly is a powerful muscle on their shoulder that powers their forelimbs, giving them extraordinary digging abilities. Since they live in an open habitat, grizzlies’ body was designed to move massive weights, do excessive digging, and turn or tear apart heavy objects to find food.
- Claws: Claws are actually the key element to climb trees. Grizzlies have slightly curved and long claws that can be up to 4-inches long (that is about the length of your fingers!) This composition is only great for excavation but does not provide enough gripping properties. Black bears, for instance, have 2-inch claws that are sharply curved; this hook-like claw makes climbing a simple task.
- Size And Weight: These have never been an obstacle for bears in running and swimming, but when it comes to going up and down a trunk is a whole different story. Adult grizzly bears are 2 meters long and weigh between 300 and 500 kilograms, which makes them less agile in reaching heights.
For Climbing Ability Comparison between all Bears, Read this Guide: Can Bears Climb Trees
Can Baby Grizzly Bear Climb Trees
Grizzly cubs are curious and energetic creatures that love to get in trouble and explore the world. Their first year of life cubs cannot only climb trees easily but will do so regularly for fun or to escape from danger.
The reason they are born excellent climbers it is that their claws share the same heavy-curved shape than black bears, which works as grappling hooks. As they get older not only their claws will get straighter and longer but also their body weight will not allow them to ascend trees with ease anymore.
When cubs are born, they will weigh around 500 to 800 grams, but they grow really fast. In just one year, male grizzly cubs will weigh around 90 kilograms, while females will weigh almost 45 kg!
Can Full-Grown Grizzly Bear Climb Trees
Full-grown adult grizzly bears are not as agile as young cubs or black bears, but they can still climb trees if the branches are large enough for them to grip firmly.
To be fair, they do have an advantage. Grizzlies can reach up to 2.8 meters long by just standing on their two limbs, so they will reach for the lowest branches to use them as ladders to get up the tree.
Also Read: Grizzly Bear Hibernation
How Common Is It That They Actually Climb Trees?
Grizzlies were not made to be climbers, so it will not be a common scene for them to do so. However, there are three principal reasons an adult grizzly bear will climb a tree:
Food: Grizzly bears are omnivores, which means they will feed on both plants and animals, nonetheless 70% of their diet is plant/vegetation based. However, if they smell something they like on a tree–including human food- they will go up and get it. Usually, grizzly bears are guided by their hearing and smell senses, which can smell carcasses even 20 miles away; so yes, hikers and campers can keep that in mind next time they hang their food on a tree.
Chase Prey: A grizzly bear is the highest predator on his food chain, which means he has no predators (besides humans and wolves packs) that they have to run away from. This makes them the ultimate predators, and an epic battle between them and their prey is not something that will end well for the other side. Grizzlies will climb a tree whenever they are chasing prey, including some known attacks on humans and other bear species.
Feels Threatened: Grizzlies are extremely territorial creatures. These solitary animals will defend their young, food and territory at all costs, even if it implies having to go up and down a tree in a matter of minutes. The most common reason for them to climb a tree is to safeguard their cubs from danger.
How fast can a grizzly bear climb a tree
There are no official records of how fast a grizzly bear can ladder his way up that tree because it would depend on how large the branches are of the tree. However, there are some known attacks that state grizzlies have chased humans over 30 feet high in a couple of minutes.
Also read: Which Bear Is The Most Dangerous
What types of trees can grizzly bears climb?
Since grizzlies do not have hook-like claws that provide a solid grip to climb a tree, they will use branches as ladders to reach higher altitudes. Therefore, a grizzly would require a tree with wide and firm branches that support their weight, such as Canopies and White-bark pine trees.
Should you climb a tree if a grizzly bear is chasing you
The ideal recommendation is not to. Grizzly bears are way more defensive than black bears, and even if they do not climb as fast, a bear will always outrun you. Whether you are running or climbing a tree, it is never good advice to defy them because they will probably get you in no time.
Not all bear species react the same, and not all behaviors are predictable. One of the best recommendations is that if you ever encounter a grizzly bear, it is to remember to avoid eye contact, which they consider a threat, and saunter instead of running.
To distract the grizzly, you can try dropping any non-eatable object (such as your jacket or hat) and either walk very slowly or lie flat on your belly and cover your head and neck until the bear is gone.
There is a funny little poem about that applies to these recommendations: “If it’s brown lay down, when it’s black, fight back; if it’s white, good night.”
Also Read: Do Bears Come Out at Night
Are grizzly bears dangerous to humans?
Grizzly bears are solitary creatures, and will not commonly attack a human unless being surprised or feeling threatened. In case a grizzly bear attack occurred, it would provoke great injuries and sometimes such an attack could be fatal.
These magnificent beasts have forelegs and paws powerful enough to move a heavy rock and claws sharp enough to hook a fish or cut their prey open; which would give them every advantage in a confrontation with a human.
Grizzly bears, especially those who have been in contact with human food before, are strong enough to destroy properties or injure smaller household animals just to reach for food.
Humans are also dangerous to bears; in fact, around 42,000 grizzly bears exist in North America and only 1,700 of them in the United States—which is why the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared them as an endangered species.
Can grizzly bears climb trees faster than they can run?
Even if grizzlies are long and heavy, they are really fast runners and not natural climbers, so it would be quite uncommon for that to happen. For scant distances, grizzly bears can run at 30 to 35 miles per hour.
Can Brown Bears Climb Trees
Yes, they can. Both Kodiak and Grizzly bears are subspecies of the brown bear. Both species can climb trees but share similar physiological traits that make them poor climbers.
Can Polar Bears Climb Trees
It is not common, but they can totally do it. Even if their natural environment does not require them to and asides from their heavyweight, polar bears are better equipped than grizzlies to climb a tree. They have shorter and sharper claws that can help them grip better to a tree trunk.
Can Kodiak Bears Climb Trees
Kodiak bears are the largest bear species in the world; they can be up to 5 feet and weigh over 680 kg. Just like grizzlies, their cubs are agile climbers, but full-grown adults find it more difficult because of their body weight and claw structure.