Scientific Name: Ursus arctos
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
The Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) is believed to have crossed over from Asia to North America 50,000 – 100,000 years ago. Conspecific with extant Brown Bears in Europe and Asia, it is a large ursid, with body sizes in Canada ranging from 100–150 kilograms (kg) for adult females to 180–270 kg for adult males. Grizzly Bears have a heavy, dish-shaped skull with dentition indicative of both a predator and herbivore (large canines and crushing molars), a robust body with long fore-claws, and powerful digging muscles that give the species its characteristic shoulder hump. Colour ranges from blonde through shades of brown to nearly black, with the sometimes silver-tipped nature of the fur giving the species a ‘grizzled’ appearance.
The global distribution of this large-bodied bear has declined by over 50% since the 1800s, with western Canada representing a significant core of the current North American range. A habitat generalist, its distribution and relative abundance in the absence of humans is largely driven by habitat productivity and seasonality. It is highly sensitive to human disturbance and is subject to high mortality risk in areas of human activity and where roads create access. Population estimates in much of the range are highly uncertain; the Canadian population is estimated at 26,000, but the number of mature individuals is uncertain and could be close to 10,000. While there is no evidence of a decline in the overall population during the past 20 years and increasing numbers of records indicating some range expansion in the north, a number of populations in the southern extent of its range in Alberta and southern BC are known to be declining and there are concerns about unsustainable mortality rates there and in parts of Yukon. There is strong evidence of genetic fragmentation in the southern parts of its range where some populations are increasingly isolated and subject to demographic stochasticity. Their poor condition in some parts of the range, combined with their naturally low reproductive rates and increasing pressures of resource extraction and cumulative impacts in currently intact parts of the range, heighten concern for this species if such pressures are not successfully reversed.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”.
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species.
For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern).
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 15
Data Deficient: 2
Not at Risk: 6
Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).
As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
Please submit your comments by
March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations
October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.