Grizzly Bear Informational Text
Watch the video about bears and use the provided teacher guide to lead a discussion with your students. Then read the informational text below using Shared Reading Strategies. Use the questions at the bottom of the page to check for comprehension and engagement.
Grizzly Bear "Highway" Uncovered in British Columbia
New research revealed a bear "highway" along the coast in Great Bear Rainforest.
For thousands of years, native tribes in Canada have lived in close proximity to the grizzly bear. But researchers have recently uncovered evidence that there are more grizzlies in one part of British Columbia than previously thought. This research was carried out by the Heiltsuk Nation, a tribal nation in the Central Coast region of British Columbia. These photos were taken in this region as part of this research.
The researchers observed grizzly bears traveling hundreds of miles each year along certain routes. One particular trail ran along the salmon-filled Koeye River. Said one researcher, “The bears walk in the same steps every time. Their feet are imprinted on the trail.” The researchers were able to literally follow in the bears’ footsteps.
For three years, Heiltsuk researchers have followed the grizzlies and lived near them. They set up remote cameras to observe the bears, and wire hair-snares to collect fur for DNA samples. They were surprised to find that not only was the bears’ territory much larger than they thought, but also that there are more bears in the area than they expected. Near the Koeye River, where they expected to find about a dozen grizzlies, they found about 60 of them. That’s a high density of bears. In comparison, Yellowstone National Park, which is much larger, has about 600-700 grizzlies.
This research was carried out in observance of the laws of the Heiltsuk Nation, which has a deep respect for the bears. The researchers did not handle the bears or perform invasive procedures on them. Says one Heiltsuk researcher, “We wanted to show that we’re committed to dovetailing traditional knowledge and science to move toward managing our resources ourselves.”
Early in our country’s history, about 50,000 bears roamed the Western part of the United States and Canada. On the map here, the shaded area shows where the grizzlies used to live, while the darker area shows the limits of the grizzlies’ range today.
Today there are an estimated 1,500 grizzlies in the lower 48 states, of which most live in Montana and Wyoming. There are roughly 30,000 in Alaska, and 25,000 in Canada.
Grizzlies are a member of the brown bear species, which includes Alaskan brown bears and Kodiak bears. Who can name some other types of bears? (Black bears, polar bears, sun bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears, and giant pandas.) Brown bears are recognizable for the hump on their shoulders. This is actually muscle that helps the bears in digging. Grizzlies are huge. They can grow up to 8 feet tall and weigh as much as 800 pounds. Grizzlies try to avoid humans and don’t see them as prey. But when grizzlies do come into contact with humans, it can often be deadly for the bear. For instance, when campers are careless and leave food where the bears can get at it, the bears will come to the food. And because these bears are so huge and powerful, they often end up getting shot if they get too close to humans.
In the U.S., grizzly bears were first listed as threatened in 1975. At that time, their numbers in the continental U.S. had dropped from 50,000 to less than 1,000 from habitat loss and over-hunting. In the 1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established recovery plans for several zones that had small grizzly populations. Today, the grizzly population has recovered enough that Yellowstone has considered taking the animal off the threatened list.