The brown bear includes many subspecies, including the Kodiak (Ursus arctos middendorfi) and Grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis). Coloration varies by region and individual from a pale fawn to near black. All subspecies are large, males growing over 6 feet in length and 800 pounds, depending on available diet. The northern salmon-feeding populations are by far the largest, with males weighing as much as 1500 pounds. In the United States, the heaviest concentrations of brown bears occur in Alaska, their range in the lower 48 being reduced to less than 1 percent of its historical scope.
Omnivores, brown bears are important predators and distributors of seeds within their ecosystems. Their diet varies widely by region, ranging from grasses and roots to fish and moose. Brown bears hibernate in the winter, which may range from October to December though March, April or May, depending on location, weather and individual. They stockpile body fat to metabolize during their long winter sleep, and brown bear females typically give birth during hibernation.
Unpredictable and often impulsive, brown bears have been consistently characterized as dangerous. The danger of attack, however, is greatly exaggerated. Brown bears typically avoid human contact whenever possible. Their reputation as livestock predators is also inflated and has lead to persecution of target populations. Although threatened by habitat loss, global populations are not in immediate danger. The Grizzly bear subspecies is currently listed as Threatened in the continental United States but has been recommended for removal from the list.