It’s almost time for grizzly bears to come out of hibernation, but did you know that bears don’t really hibernate? Or that moths are one of their favourite foods?

Learn more about grizzlies, as well as about ‘grolar’ and ‘prizzly’ bears

It might surprise you to learn that moths are one of a grizzly bear’s favourite foods

Perhaps no other animal symbolizes the stunning beauty of the Canadian wilderness as much as the grizzly bear. A type of brown bear, grizzly bears occur in the wilderness of western and northern Canada. The species’ scientific name, Ursus horribilis, means “terrifying bear.” However, although they won’t shy away from protecting their food or their young, grizzly bears are typically peaceful creatures. They also act as an important umbrella species for the rest of the ecosystem, meaning that conserving habitat for grizzly bears also benefits a whole suite of other species that share their habitat.

Canada is famous for its grizzly bears. Unfortunately, however, grizzly bears have been assessed as a species of special concern, meaning they could become threatened or endangered in the future. They are threatened by climate change, unsustainable hunting, habitat loss, and extremely low reproductive rates. There are about 33,000 grizzly bears in the U.S. (mainly in Alaska) and about 26,000 grizzly bears in Canada (mainly in B.C.). Hopefully, Canadians are willing to protect grizzly bears and their habitat, because a future without these amazing animals would indeed be unbearable.

Explore their unique and wild world with these five surprising grizzly bear facts:

1) The hump on a grizzly bear’s back is a huge muscle. One of the most identifiable features of a grizzly bear is the hump on its back. The hump is actually a large muscle that the bear uses to power its front legs. Grizzly bears need strong forelimbs. That’s because, more than any other type of bear, they love to dig in the dirt and tear apart rotten logs in search of plant bulbs, insects, roots, and grubs. The hump also allows them the needed strength to dig out of winter dens, which are typically in rocky, steep mountainous terrain. The hump is also an easy way of distinguishing a black bear from a grizzly bear, as black bears don’t have a hump.

2) Bears don’t hibernate. Contrary to common belief, bears do not hibernate. Indeed, while bears slow down during the winter, they are not true hibernators like woodchucks. Instead, bears enter what is called torpor. When animals hibernate, they sleep through the entire winter and don’t wake up when they hear loud noises or even if they are moved or touched. In contrast, a bear in torpor can wake up fairly quickly at a noise or a touch.

Interestingly, unlike humans, who would either get bedsores or suffer muscle atrophy from lying in bed all winter, bears in torpor don’t experience significant muscle atrophy. This is most likely due to their ability to absorb their urine and recycle it into a protein that preserves muscle mass.

3) Climate change can affect a grizzly bear’s diet. Grizzly bears have become “famous” thanks to pictures of them catching salmon in shallow rivers, such as in the streams of the Kodiak Archipelago of Alaska. However, due to climate change, some bears are switching from eating salmon to eating elderberries, as early warming causes the berries to bloom prematurely. Because bears in the archipelago previously ate up to 75 per cent of a salmon population in a region, researchers believe the dramatic increase in salmon populations will disrupt the entire food chain on the islands. For example, fish carcasses not only enrich the soil around rivers, they also provide an important food source to other animals.

4) Grizzly bears love to eat moths. Although grizzly bears eat a variety of different insects, moths are available to them in large numbers. Grizzly bears have been seen moving through boulder fields and turning over heavy rocks to feed on masses of army cutworm moths. A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park was seen to have consumed over 40,000 moths in one day. However, eating this many in a day is uncommon.

5) “Prizzly bears” and “grolar bears” are hybrids. As grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada move north in response to climate change, they increasingly come into contact with polar bears located on coastlines. Because the two species are very close genetically, males of both species are attracted to females of both species and sometimes mate with them. This results in hybrids, which are aptly known as “prizzly bears” and “grolar bears” or nanulak and aknuk. The terms aknuk and nanulak are a combination of the Inuit names for polar bear (nanuk) and grizzly bear (aklak).

When naming the hybrids, the name of the sire (male parent) usually appears first. For example, the offspring of a male polar bear and a female grizzly bear is called aknuk or “prizzly bear.” By comparison, the offspring of a male grizzly bear and a female polar bear is called “grolar bear” or nanulak.

Grizzly-polar bear hybrids are smaller than polar bears, but larger than grizzly bears. Their heads are a combination between the more broad-headed grizzly bear and the more narrow-headed polar bear. Additionally, hybrids have the long necks of a polar bear and the small shoulders of a grizzly bear. They tend to act more like polar bears than grizzly bears.

While the hybrids are interesting, scientists note that it will be hundreds of generations before there is officially a new species of bear.

To learn more about grizzly bears and other umbrella species that call the Canadian wilderness home, please visit www.natureconservancy.ca.



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cache Creek council votes to rejoin local transit system

Details need to be worked out, but hopes are that change can be expedited

Ashcroft residents get information at Community Forum

Water treatment plant, recycling, an Eco-Depot, the budget, and more among items addressed

Elizabeth May’s wedding will be a ‘low-carbon affair’ in Victoria on Earth Day

Green party leader’s wedding party to depart in a cavalcade of electric cars

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

Most Read