How to Tell Grizzly Bears and Black Bears Apart

Black Bear Sitting on the rocky shore


In North America, many people find it difficult to tell the difference between grizzly bears and black bears.  While you may think that their colouring is an obvious difference, it can often be very misleading – especially when you’re face-to-face with a bear!  So what are the telltale signs that differentiate these two animals?



Grizzlies notably have a bigger shoulder hump between their shoulder blades due to their muscular frames. Black bears have a lower shoulder hump slightly below the neck region and a smaller muscular frame.


Notice this Grizzly Bear’s hump?



Grizzly bears are a lot larger than black bears.  While the average male black bears weighs in at 300 pounds, the average male grizzly more than doubles that at 700 pounds.



One of the striking differences between these two bears are their claws. Grizzly bears have claws that are easily noticeable from a distance – they’re 2-4 inches long. Black bears claws are merely an inch long, so if you can see them clearly, you’re too close!


Can you tell which bear these claws belong to?



Grizzly bears have ears that are round and small.  Black bears have ears that are taller, larger, and more pointed.


Facial Appearance

Both bears have different facial structures.  Grizzlies have small and rounded (dish-like) faces and the areas from their snout to their forehead are distinctively indented.  Black bears have straight faces from their nose to their forehead and have no indentations.


A black bear hanging out along the shoreline


Those are the most distinguishing features to help identify which type of bear you’re looking at!



Written by:  Brianna England