Can Grizzly Bears Climb Trees?

One of the many unique abilities that the bears of North America have is that of climbing trees. Black bears, for example, are excellent climbers and can quickly and easily climb trees to great heights. Bears climb trees to help them get away from danger, to find food, and to rest and play. Again, the American black bear is an especially good tree climber due to its smaller size and the unique hooked shape of its claws. But what about grizzly bears and the big coastal brown bears, including the Kodiak bear? Can they climb trees? Well, the answer is a little more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”

The Adventures of King Kodiak, The Biggest Brown Bear in the World, Joseph Classen
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I’ve produced many blogs and videos in which I cover the differences between the various subspecies of brown bears, but to quickly sum it up, the true grizzly bear is a subspecies of the coastal brown bear. Grizzly bears live in interior regions of wilderness and do not have access to marine-derived food sources such as salmon and dead whales, which enables the coastal brown bears, including the Kodiak bear, to grow to enormous proportions, as the biggest Kodiak bear on record is close to 1,700 pounds and coastal brown bears of the mainland of Alaska can routinely grow to 1,500 pounds. By comparison, the average adult female grizzly bear weighs between 290-400 pounds and adult male grizzlies usually weigh between 400-790 pounds, although they can get bigger depending on the available food sources in their area.

Grizzly and coastal brown bear cubs and young subadult bears can indeed climb trees. The mature, but smaller grizzly and coastal brown bears can likewise climb trees. However, when they begin to reach those enormous size and weight proportions, they start to lose their climbing ability. Coastal brown bears and interior grizzly bears are also not good at climbing trees due to other physical drawbacks. While black bears have claws that are ideal for climbing trees, the claws of brown and grizzly bears are longer, straighter, and sharper, which makes it difficult for them to dig into tree bark and climb. Brown bears also have fixed wrist joints, along with paws that turn inwards, which inhibits their climbing ability.

Check out the video below to see and learn more…