The Biggest Grizzly Bear to Ever Roam Yellowstone

Written by August Buck
Updated: November 12, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Jess Bray
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Key Points

  • Grizzlies typically range between 300 – 700lbs in weight.
  • Certain large specimens capable of tipping the scales to an impressive degree have been found in Yellowstone.
  • Yet, Kodiac bears which enjoy an abundance of food are capable of growing to almost double the size of their relatives.

There are a number of fearsome predators that live in our National Parks, but do you know just how big the biggest grizzly bear to ever roam Yellowstone National Park was? How did the immense size of this bear compare to other grizzlies in the wild, and what did it need to eat in order to get so big?

In this article, we will discuss what we know about the biggest grizzly bear that ever lived in Yellowstone. We will go over the size and weight of this particular bear, along with a few other bears of note. Yellowstone is home to a number of fearsome grizzly bears and black bears- let’s check out just how fearsome they can be!

How Big was the Biggest Grizzly Bear to Ever Roam Yellowstone?

biggest grizzly bear yellowstone
The biggest grizzly bear captured outside of Yellowstone National Park is estimated to have weighed 1200 pounds.

iStock.com/Jess Bray

While sources vary and Yellowstone National Park has its own accurate information in terms of grizzly bear tracking, the biggest grizzly bear to ever roam Yellowstone was estimated to be between 600-800 pounds. This bear was known as 791, observed killing and burying an enormous male elk in 2020.

However, grizzly bear 791 wasn’t the only large bear to roam Yellowstone National Park. The records continue, with many large bears throughout the park’s history. In 2018, a grizzly known affectionately as Big Joe was euthanized due to his routine hunting of cattle outside of Yellowstone. This bear was caught right after hibernation, arguably at his lowest weight, and he still weighed over 600 pounds. Experts estimate that, if Big Joe had lived, he would have weighed nearly 900 pounds by the fall! 

But Big Joe and 791 aren’t the only large grizzlies. Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding ecosystem have known plenty of large bears. Another bear, nicknamed Little Wahb, was caught and euthanized for the same reason as Big Joe back in the year 2000. Also known as bear 212, Little Wahb also weighed anywhere from 600-800 pounds. Now Little Wahb and Big Joe remain in a museum near Yellowstone National Park, educating visitors about grizzlies year after year!

How Big is the Average Grizzly Bear?

biggest grizzly bear yellowstone
Most grizzly bears residing within Yellowstone National Park are of average size and weight.

Alexandra Giese/Shutterstock.com

The average grizzly bear weighs anywhere from 300-700 pounds, depending on gender, with female bears weighing significantly less than male bears. This means that most grizzly bears residing within Yellowstone National Park are of average size and weight. While these statistics may seem like extremely large bears, it just goes to show you that grizzlies are big bears just about anywhere in the world!

In fact, Kodiak bears, a specific family of grizzly bears living in the Kodiak Archipelago off the coast of Alaska, are considered to be the largest grizzly bears ever. Depending on gender, Kodiak bears weigh anywhere from 600-1200 pounds. This is significant, especially when you consider the fact that Kodiak bears are just another subspecies of grizzly bear (also known as brown bears).

Read all about the differences between Kodiak bears and grizzly bears here.

How Big is the Biggest Grizzly Bear Outside Yellowstone?

biggest grizzly bear yellowstone
Grizzly bears in Yellowstone eat a number of different animals, including elk, deer, bison, moose, rabbits, fish, and other rodents.

The biggest grizzly bear captured outside of Yellowstone National Park is estimated to have weighed 1200 pounds. However, this figure is often exaggerated or inflated, considering the fact that many grizzlies are weighed after they have been shot and potentially altered in some shape or form. However, it isn’t unheard of for grizzly bears to reach this huge size, especially when you consider the Kodiak bear!

What Do Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone National Park Eat?

biggest grizzly bear yellowstone
There may be a number of carnivores and predators in this area, but grizzlies reign supreme!

DPS/Shutterstock.com

The reason that Kodiak bears grow so large is because of the abundance of food resources on their island, and they are the top predators in this location. However, the same can be said of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. There may be a number of carnivores and predators in this area, but grizzlies reign supreme!

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone eat a number of different animals, including elk, deer, bison, moose, rabbits, fish, and other rodents. However, grizzlies also eat a number of non-animal foods, including berries, pine nuts, and vegetation. They devour enough food in the fall to gain three pounds per day, in preparation for their long winter hibernation!

Where Can I See Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone National Park?

biggest grizzly bear yellowstone
Grizzly bears have been sighted along the Northern Ridge of the park, in both Hayden and Lamar valleys, and more.

Lillac/Shutterstock.com

While you may not want to see a grizzly bear during your time in Yellowstone National Park, it is one of the top places in the entire world to see carnivores in their natural habitat. This includes wolves, black bears, and, of course, grizzly bears! They have been sighted along the Northern Ridge of the park, in both Hayden and Lamar valleys, and more.

However, grizzly bears prefer to make themselves scarce, especially when compared to black bears and non-carnivore animals. You’re going to see bison and elk much sooner than you’re going to see a grizzly! This isn’t to say that they aren’t prominent within the park- far from it. 

You should still plan accordingly and safely for bear country, especially if you want to camp anywhere in Yellowstone National Park. Remember: grizzly bears know where you are much sooner than you know where they are!

kodiak vs grizzly
Kodiak bears live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago. This location is just below the arctic circle and has a subpolar climate.
iStock.com/Jess Bray
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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