Bears of Glacier Bay Anecdotal bear sightings in Glacier Bay from 1932-2000. Brown dots represent brown bears and black dots represent black bears. Brown or Black, how to tell the difference…
Brown/Grizzly Bears • • Broad face with curved facial profile. • • Prominent shoulder hump. • • Longer, straighter claws. • • Adults 3.5 feet at the shoulder/up to 9 feet when standing on hind legs. • • Adults 500 to 1000 pounds - tend to be on the smaller size in GB proper. • Colors range from blond and silver to dark chocolate brown and even black.
Black Bears • • Narrow face with straight facial profile. • • Smaller shoulder hump . • • Prominent ears that extend farther from head. • • Shorter, curved claws. • • Adults generally less than 3 feet at the shoulder. • • Adults 125 to over 300 pounds. • Colors vary in all shades of black, reddish brown (cinnamon), and gray.
Bear claws from left to right: large coastal brown bear, smaller inland brown bear, and black bear. Black bear claws are generally dark while brown bear claws can be dark or light colored.
Classic Glacier Bay adult brown bear. Note the high shoulder hump, short ears, broad face, and long claws.
Another young brown bear whose shoulder hump is not prominent because of the position of the bear’s body. Note the curved facial profile where the nose is lower than the forehead.
Sub-adult brown bears, whose ears look big compared to the rest of their bodies. Like many people, bears grow into their ears.
This is a large male cinnamon black bear who has frequented Bartlett Cove for the past four summers. This bear is OFTEN reported as a brown bear because he has a more prominent shoulder hump and smaller ears than most black bears, but…
He has a narrow face and a straight profile compared to the brown bear on the right.
Nope, black bear. Look at the tall ears, narrow face, and the straight profile of the face. This is a cinnamon black bear in the process of shedding its bleached out coat with darker fur underneath.
Here’s a close up comparison: Black: Taller ears, more narrow face, straight profile. Brown: Shorter ears, broader face, curved profile.
Ready for a quiz? Name that species: black or brown bear?
Brown: Sub-adult who has yet to grow into ears, but still has a broad face. 1.
2. Brown: One cub has unusual gray coloring.
3. Black: Note the straight profile of mom.
4. Brown: Sub-adult, note the curved facial profile.
5. Black: Cinnamon male in Bartlett Cove.
6. Black: Sub-adult with rare “glacier” fur color.
Tracks can be used to distinguish between species. Try to find prints from the front paws showing all toes and claws. Black bear: smaller, short claws, toes curve in an arch and are spread from each other. Brown bear: larger, long claws, toes almost straight across and are closer together. (Pencil in these photos is about 6 inches long.)