Species Profile: Coastal Brown Bear

The Coastal Brown Bear, also known as a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), is often associated with a rich diet of salmon and as a result weighs an average of one thousand pounds. However, salmon is more of a fall menu item and vegetation makes up a large portion of any bear’s diet.

The bear in our Photo of the Week, shot by Alan Vernon, is enjoying some Lyngbye’s Sedge (Carex lyngbyei)–one of the most popular and important foods in Pacific Northwest estuaries–coastal areas where the land meets the sea and salt and freshwater mix. These precious wetlands provide food, shelter and/or nursery areas for many species, from the mighty brown bear on down to salmon. Ironically, not only bears but also junior salmon dine on Lyngbye’s Sedge, and the salmon use it to hide in.

This photo was taken on British Columbia’s northern coastline in Khutzeymateen Inlet, the location of Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, Canada’s first protected area for grizzlies, a species at risk, and their habitat. The sanctuary is approximately 40 kilometres northeast of Prince Rupert and encompasses  45,000 hectares of rain forest, a river mouth estuary, and an ocean fjord. The area is home to about 50 grizzlies as well as moose, wolves, birds, seals, orca, and humpback whales.

Protecting an area rich in both salmon and grizzlies is important as, according to Bears in B.C., grizzlies have one of the lowest reproduction rates of any mammal in North America. The bears reach sexual maturation at five years of age and females generally have two cubs every two to three years. Cubs also have a high mortality rate with 70 per cent of young bears dying before they are able to reproduce.

Perhaps as this grizzly peruses the estuary he will find young salmon hiding amongst the sedge. Thanks to the sanctuary this bear may go on to reproduce and live out a long and full grizzly life of up to 25 years. Thanks to Alan Vernon for sharing this amazing photo with us and reminding us just how important estuaries are to all, be they at the top or the bottom of the food chain.

If you would like to participate or view BC Wetlands photography collection, click here!

Grizzly Bear Fast Facts:

  • The name grizzly comes from their appearance – light guard hairs in the coat make the bears appear grizzled
  • One quarter of all grizzly bears in North America live in B.C.
  • The grizzly has one of the lowest reproduction rates for mammals in North America
  • Females have an average litter size of 2 cubs
  • Up to 70 per cent of young bears die before they can reproduce
  • Major threats to cubs  include adult male grizzlies

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