A grizzly bear is capable of reaching speeds of up to 35 mph, according to the National Wildlife Federation. This makes it the fastest among all eight species of bear, although it can only sustain this speed for a short period. However, grizzly bears are still exceptionally fast over extended distances, and can run over 2 miles while maintaining a speed of 25-28 mph.
Despite being so large, the speed and stamina of the grizzly makes it a formidable predator that can outrun many other animals and – definitely – humans. This is why people are advised never to attempt to run if they encounter a grizzly.
How do grizzly bears run so fast?
It’s hard to imagine grizzlies running very fast when you consider how large they are. After all, males typically weigh between 400 to 600 pounds while females weigh between 250 to 350 pounds. But make no mistake – when they want to, they can get a move on, which is especially useful when they are hunting prey.
The grizzly bear’s body has several key adaptations that enable it to run for a considerable distance at high speed, despite its bulk. The mound behind their shoulder blades is packed with muscle, providing them with the power to propel their large bodies forward. The fore legs are short and powerful, enabling them to achieve maximum speed. In contrast, the back legs are longer, helping the bear to cover more distance.
These qualities enable bears to maintain high speed for sustained periods, allowing them to chase down and catch the young of species such as deer, moose and elk.
Can you outrun a grizzly bear?
There is a very good reason that you are told never to run away from a grizzly – the bear will always be much faster. Consider the person who holds the world record for being the fastest human on earth – Usain Bolt – whose highest speed was 27.33 mph. That means that not even the world’s fastest person would have been able to outrun a grizzly bear.
It is a common misconception that grizzlies, due to their ambling gait, can’t run downhill. There are records of these bears being faster downhill than uphill. Consequently, there is nowhere you can run that the grizzly can’t catch you.
What should you do if you encounter a grizzly?
If you do meet a grizzly in the wild, you should definitely not run away – that would just activate the bear’s prey drive. Instead, talk to the bear in a soft voice while trying to make yourself as big as possible. Try to climb to a higher ground and slowly wave your hands.
Slowly back away, but make sure you don’t turn your back to the bear. Moving sideways lets you face the bear while being able to see where you are going. And alway carry bear pepper spray if you are heading to bear country.