Grizzlies, indeed, all Northern Bears, are
strongly motivated during the summer months to gain weight in preparation for
the months of hibernation. (Not a true hibernation, since they are easily
awakened.) The instinct to hibernate is an adaptation to life in places where
winter conditions, such as reduced food supplies and decreased mobility, may
threaten survival. Newborns may weigh less than l lb., and can increase their
weight as much as 1000 times during their 30-year lifespan. Grizzlies are
devoted mothers and cubs remain with them for two to three years, during
which time they learn their survival skills.
Though generally shy and peaceful,
with an inclination to stay away from humans, Grizzlies also, however,
especially when protecting cubs, prove to be among the most ferocious of
bears when encountered. Rare incidents of mauling have usually been
precipitated by the victim's lack of knowledge about bears.
The Grizzly population has dwindled
dramatically since the first European settlers, eager to take control of the
new land by making it safe for themselves and their livestock, systematically
decimated the huge predators. They also turned a nice profit by selling the
pelts, which were extremely popular.
By 1900, the Grizzly had been eliminated
from the Great Plains and the surrounding hill country. Though the Grizzly is
the California State Animal and appears on our state flag, the last of these
magnificent creatures in California was killed in 1922. A few scattered
populations totalling only 800-900 bears still survive in the lower 48. The
Grizzly is currently classified as Endangered.