Brown Bears

Scientific Name:   Ursus arctos

See Brown Bears

Curious Brown Bear Science

When is the best time to view brown bears in Monterey County and where is the best viewing?

While brown bears were once common throughout North American from Alaska to Mexico, today fewer than 2,000 bears remain in the contiguous United States and can only be seen in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The best place to spot a brown bear is in Alaska where there are an estimated 30,000 bears—about 95% of the entire population in the United States.


About Brown Bears

Three subspecies of brown bear are native to North America: the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), the Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) and the California Grizzly (Ursus californicus).  The California Grizzly, with an estimated statewide population of 10,000 bears, was driven to extinction less than 75 years after the discovery of gold.


The last California Grizzly was shot in 1922 in Tulare County.  Thirty years later it was declared the official state land mammal of California.  Today brown bears appear on the California state flag and as the largest taxidermy specimen at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

Brown bears are highly territorial. Male brown bears have a home range averaging 200-500 square miles, whereas female brown bears may have a home range of 50-300 square miles. Home ranges are identified by a bear’s scent. Brown bears rub their bodies against trees and use urine to mark their territory. Scent, along with sound and movement, is an important communication method among bears.

Spring and summer in Alaska are the best times to view brown bears as they roam in search of food in preparation for winter hibernation. In the summer, brown bears may consume up to 90 pounds of food per day! Pregnant female bears tend to gain the most weight in order to have enough fat reserves to nurse their young during hibernation in the den. Hibernation typically occurs from October through March. When the female emerges with her cubs in spring, she may have lost up to 40% of her body weight.


Brown Bear Fun Facts

  • Hibernate for 5–8 months each year
  • When hibernating, their temperature, heart rate and metabolism decreases
  • Solitary mammals except during mating season
  • Cubs can climb trees for protection or food, but adult bears are often too heavy to climb trees 
  • Claws can be as long as a human finger
  • Run as fast as 35 mph
  • Brown bears are excellent swimmers
  • Do not excrete anything during hibernation

Habitat: Forests, alpine meadows, Arctic tundra

Length: 3.5 feet on all fours; 6-7 feet when standing

Weight: Males weigh 300-850 pounds, Females weigh 200-450 pounds

Diet: grasses, berries, fungi, mosses, roots, nuts, fruits, honey, insects, birds, fish, rodents, sheep, caribou, elk, moose

Lifespan: 20-25 years

Reproduction: Mating season lasts from May through July. The female mates every two to four years. After a gestation period of 180-270 days, females give birth to up to four cubs.