Grizzly Bears are double the size of Black Bears. Their tracks are different with black bears having more rounding. Grizzlies have concave face compared to flat face on black bears. Grizzlies are more aggressive and dangerous to humans.
Black bears are not necessarily black as there are varieties that are brown, blond and cinnamon. On the other hand, the term grizzled refers to white-tipped hair, but this is not what all grizzly bears offer. Grizzlies can be light or dark brown, pale, luminous or reddish-blond, or even almost black.
Here are the characteristics and behaviors you will observe in both the black bear and the grizzly.
• Both are mainly populated in North America. These two bears prefer living in deeply forested areas.
Despite these morphological and feeding habits, the black bear and the grizzlies show a good deal of differences.
Grizzly bears have a concave face profile meaning that they have a depression between their eyes and nose. Other distinguishing physical features of the grizzly bear are small, rounded ears and long, light-colored claws used for digging.
The black bear has a flat face, so the area from the forehead to the tip of the nose is a straight line. This bear also boasts long ears and short, dark-colored claws that aid in climbing trees. They are not related to dogs.
There is a significant difference between the sizes of these two bears. Grizzly bears have larger bodies that are more strongly built compared to black bears. Grizzlies especially have a powerful build of muscles on the shoulder area that comes in handy when digging. This feature lacks in black bears.
A mature black bear is around 2.9 feet shoulder height and 5 feet when standing. The weight will vary from 45-200 kilograms. On the other hand, Grizzly bears can reach up to 3.3 feet shoulder height and around 6.5 feet in standing position. The weight will vary from 100-400 kilograms.
Grizzly bears are more aggressive in nature than black bears and they will mercilessly attack when they feel threatened or in danger. Female grizzly bears especially exhibit this behavior to anything that tries to intrude the area where their cubs are.
Black bears will attack when they cannot run away. If there is a chance to run away, they will do that and climb a tree to avoid danger.
The brave and highly aggressive defense mechanism of the grizzly bears is why they are a common sight in black bears’ territories. The vice versa rarely happens.
Before we move on with the differences, let’s briefly discuss how you could survive an attack from these two bears. First, you must understand that the only ‘weapon’ to stop a bear is bear pepper spray. If visiting an area with bears, you’d better carry this product in plenty.
Grizzly bear: As mentioned above, grizzly bears only attack when they feel threatened. In this regard, the best way to survive this bear’s attack is to fall down and act dead with the bear spray at hand for use if the bear decides to take charge. The last thing you would want to do is run away, as the grizzly bear will definitely catch you.
Black bears: Black bears tend to retract rather than respond when faced with danger, meaning that you can use scare strategies to survive an attack. Use large sticks or other wild objects to make yourself appear bigger and yell loudly and continuously to scare the black bear. Don’t hesitate to use the bear pepper spray in case the bear is not scared off.
For reproduction, black bears take the upper hand as they reproduce more cubs than grizzly bears. A female black bear will, in most cases, have its first cubs at 4 years and will litter 2-4 cubs. They will also have cubs every 4 years. For this reason, black bears can withstand high mortality rates and hence their numbers never reduce significantly.
Grizzly bears reach reproduction age at 6 years and litter 1-2 cubs and, in rare cases 3 cubs. They litter once every 3-4 years, a reason why their population is highly susceptible to high mortality rates and ultimately significant reduction, as discussed below.
Lifespan and conservation status
The black bear has an average lifespan of 18-23 years, while grizzly bears can live up to 22- 26 years. For the grizzly bears, females take the upper lifespan threshold.
In terms of conservation status, the population of black bears is still stable in the wild, while that of the grizzly bears have significantly reduced over the years. The continued reduced numbers of the grizzly bear have made it be classified as threatened in some regions such as Canada.
The threatened classification of the grizzly bear is a wake-up call urging all of us to take focused care of these animals. It is mainly human activities such as poaching and vehicle collision that renders these animals threatened, a reason why everyone has to play their part in protecting grizzly bears.
Another great way to differentiate these two predators is understanding their track profiles. The front feet tracks of a grizzly bear are squarer. To confirm this, you can use a straight edge, put it across the track behind one toe and just in front of the pad. You will notice that the edge will never cross the other toe unless there were abnormalities in the tracks.
Black bear’s tracks are more rounded and if you repeat the same test, the edge will actually cross the toe on the other end.
Although the black bears and the grizzly bear inhabit the same region and consume the same foods, they depict differences that are hard to miss. As seen from this guide, it is not all about the colors, but also other body features such as facial configuration and body size.
Due to the size difference a Grizzly would win the fight.
Here is an infographic comparing them: