Bear Hunting – Identifying a Black Bear From a Grizzly Bear

There is no such thing as “a” bear. There are bears…plural. That is to say, there are different species. Most people are familiar with the polar bear. Some might have even heard of the Kodiak bear. For those that enjoy bear hunting, the two most commonly cited bears would be the black bear and the legendary grizzly bear. Is there much of a difference between black bears and grizzly bears? Actually, there are quite a few pronounced differences and those wishing to head out into the great outdoors to hunt bear need to know such differences.

Bear hunting is one of the more misunderstood sportive activities one could take part in. There are a great many complexities required to succeed with this type of hunting. The skills required are quite vast and many of them will center on how to make such a hunt a lot safer.

One other aspect that people do not realize is that different strategies need to be employed for different bears. In most regions of North America, the primary bear indigenous to the land mass would be the black bear. However, in certain areas, black bear live side by side with grizzly bears. (Granted, some of this co-existence is far from peaceful) Now, when you are hunting bear, you need to be sure as to what type of bear you come across in the field. In certain areas, black bear season and grizzly bear season may occur at different points in the season. Other areas may require you have two separate bear licenses for each animal.

And, most importantly, the way you hunt a black bear is different than how you would hunt a grizzly bear. Often, these differences are designed to take safety concerns into consideration. Black bears are dangerous. No one is denying that fact. However, grizzly bears can be even more dangerous and more aggressive. They can also be a lot more difficult to kill. Black bears have been hunted in states such as New Jersey with shotguns. Very few hunters would take such a risk hunting grizzly bear with such a weapon.

This is why it is so very necessary to be able to clearly determine the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear. There are some definitive differences between the two. Here is a look at those differences:

Most people will say the main difference is that black bears are black and grizzly bears are brown. (Grizzly bears are commonly referred to as brown bears) Generally, this is true. However, not all grizzlies are brown. Many are jet black. And yes, some black bears are brown. And both of them can be…blond! So, you cannot always go by the color of the bears as the only way to tell which species they are. You need to look at other attributes to determine the differences.

Size would be a major factor. Grizzlies are huge huger on average than black bears. Yes, there will be the errant black bear that is large in size. And there will be some undersized grizzly bears. However, most grizzlies are in the 500lbs – 800lb range. Black bears will be in the 200lbs – 400lbs range. The average height of a grizzly is three feet on all fours and well in excess of six feet when standing. Black bear are decidedly smaller being 3 feet on all fours but rarely more than six feet when standing. Again, there may be exceptions so you cannot always go by size.

The key differentiating factors include the following:

The face of a grizzly will be significantly depressed. This is most evident in the eye/nose region. The ears of the grizzly will also be short and round. Black bears are quite different. The ears of the black bear are significantly longer and more pointed than a grizzly. The nose of the black bear is more extended.

The body of a grizzly has a large hump on the back. A black bear has NO hump. This is probably the most definitive distinguishing factor between the animals.

The claws of a grizzle are significantly larger than a black bear. It is certainly not recommended to get close enough to the bear to tell the difference. However, if you are examining bear tracks, the larger grizzly tracks will have pronounced claws.

Few single items can determine which bear is which. But, when you put all the factors together, you can make a perfect comparison.