Could an Unarmed Human Beat a Grizzly Bear?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: December 1, 2022
© Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com
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Humans that live in highly populated cities and suburban areas have gotten used to being at the top of the food chain. The same can’t be said about people that live in areas where grizzly bears are regularly sighted. They know that these bears pose a significant threat to them. It’s worth asking, could an unarmed human beat a grizzly bear if they didn’t have access to a weapon or shelter?

We’ll show you what would happen in such an encounter and why. We’ll also go over what you should do if you find yourself in this unfortunate position.

Comparing an Unarmed Human and a Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bears differ from humans in terms of size and offensive capabilities.

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Unarmed HumanGrizzly Bear
SizeWeight: averages between 130 and 199 pounds with higher measures possible
Height: stand between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 9 inches on average, but may get much higher
Weight: anywhere from 400 to 700 pounds on average, but large ones weigh over 1,000 pounds
Height: stand between 3 and 3.5 feet at the shoulder, but large specimens can reach over 4 feet tall
Length: anywhere from 7 to 10 feet at their largest
Speed– Average human run speed is between 6.5 and 8 mph
– The fastest human ever recorded ran at a speed of 27.5 mph
– Capable of running at 35 mph  
Defenses– Rely on crafted weapons, tools, and shelters to remain safe
– Without access to weapons, shelter, or tools, humans must rely on intelligence
– An intelligent human could try to escape or hide from predators
– Relatively weak bodies with many vulnerable areas
– High stamina allows trained humans to run for long distances
– Large bodies make it hard to deal fatal damage to a bear
– Their thick layers of skin and fat make bears impervious to many attacks, even some gunshots
– The bear’s speed would allow it to flee from trouble in some cases
– The sheer physical power of the grizzly makes it tough to take down  
Offensive Capabilities– Can strike with hands, arms, legs, and feet
– May choke or strangle aggressors
– High intelligence helps people determine where to attack an enemy’s body
– Mostly relies on technology and weapons to attack others
– Maul their prey
– Attack with vicious bites, swats, and slashes
– Have canine teeth that measure up to 3 inches long
– Have a bite force of about 975 PSI or more    
Predatory Behavior– Humans are better gatherers without weapons
– Can still ambush some prey or chase prey down until it is too tired to fight back
– Relatively ineffective as a hunter without tools or weapons
– More of a scavenger than a hunter
– Can use some ambush tactics to attack prey quickly, but they’re also cursorial
– Bears can attack humans for many reasons, including viewing people as prey

What Are the Key Factors in a Fight Between an Unarmed Human and a Grizzly Bear?

Figuring out if a human can win a fight against a grizzly bear requires looking at several key factors. In this case, we have to examine the physical and behavioral elements of each creature, including size, speed, defenses, offenses, and predatory capabilities.

By looking at each and seeing which animal has the advantage, we can fully understand how such a conflict would end.  

Unarmed Human vs. Grizzly Bear: Size

Grizzly Bear in Snow
Grizzly bears have the size advantage.

©Steve Boice/Shutterstock.com

An unarmed human is much smaller than a grizzly bear. The average grizzly bear weighs between 400 and 700 pounds, and the largest one ever seen weighed about 1,200 pounds. Meanwhile, the average human weighs somewhere between 130 and 199 pounds, but some people are much heavier.

The average grizzly bear stands about 3 and 4 feet tall at the shoulder. The vast majority of people are taller, standing between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 9 inches. Yet, the grizzly can stand on its two hind legs, towering over a person.

Grizzly bears have a significant size advantage in this fight.

Unarmed Human vs. Grizzly Bear: Speed

Grizzly bears are much faster than humans. The average human can run between 6.5 and 8 mph if they are in shape. The fastest runner of all time hit a speed of 27.5 mph in the middle of a sprint, and it is not a speed that they could maintain for long at all.

However, grizzly bears can run at up to 35 mph, and they can maintain their speed for a longer distance than most humans can run.

Grizzly bears have a significant speed advantage in this battle.

Unarmed Human vs. Grizzly Bear: Defenses

The everyday person is protected by their home, community, and access to tools that keep them safe. However, when all of that is stripped away, humans are sort of weak. We have thin skin, many weak spots, and little to protect us against harsh elements. Yet, our intelligence allows us to stay safe by helping us outsmart lesser creatures and to use any advantages we have to stay safe.

Grizzly bears are loaded with physical defenses. They have fur and thick skin to keep them safe, along with a layer of fat that can measure several inches thick. On top of that, they are insanely powerful, making it hard to dominate them in a battle. Even if a grizzly bear found itself on the losing end of a battle, it could always run away using its amazing speed.

Grizzly bears have a defensive advantage in the fight against humans.

Unarmed Human vs. Grizzly Bear: Offensive Capabilities

the roar of brown bear
The grizzly bear has a powerful bite force.

©Diego Capone/Shutterstock.com

The average human has a few ways of attacking enemies. They include punching, kicking, strangling, grappling, and biting. Our bites are weak, and our teeth are usually too short to do much damage to a wild animal. An unarmed human has nothing but those options in this battle, and they’re greatly outmatched. After all, humans mostly rely on their weapons and superior technology to face down foes.

Grizzly bears are made for fighting even though they’re not true hunters. They have canine teeth that can get as long as 3 inches, and they crunch into bodies with a bite force of 975 PSI. That’s far greater than a human’s bite force. They also have very long claws that can grow from 3 to 5 inches long. Their claws aren’t especially sharp, but they can still slash prey.

Grizzly bears are also very strong. They combine all these elements of their offensive prowess into mauling. They usually bring their body weight to bear on their enemy, dragging them down while delivering vicious bites to the head and neck of animals.

Needless to say, grizzly bears have a massive advantage in terms of their offensive powers.

Unarmed Human vs. Grizzly Bear: Predatory Behavior

Humans relied on cursorial hunting thousands of years ago. They would chase down prey, weaken it with weapons, and then kill it. They would also use some sorts of ambushes, like bow and arrow attacks, traps, and others. Without access to weapons or gear, humans need to ambush their enemy to stand a chance.

Grizzly bears prefer to scavenge or gather their food. Yet, they can be quite effective at hunting sometimes. They try to ambush their prey, but they often have to chase it, wear it down, and then kill it. They’re powerful enough to take down large deer, and they can do so without the aid of other bears.

Grizzly bears have the advantage in this fight.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between an Unarmed Human and a Grizzly Bear?

Grizzly Bear Roaring in Winter
A grizzly bear would win a fight against an unarmed human.

©Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com

An unarmed human could not bear a grizzly bear in a fight. Humans cannot do serious harm to a grizzly bear. It is strongly advised that you do not get near grizzly bears. Also, you should not attack them unless in very specific situations that we’ll mention below.

In this fight, the grizzly bear would attack a human like any other animal. The bear would charge the human, knock it over, and deliver a violent flurry of bites, slashes, and more to kill the person. The best a human could do is hope to land some attacks on its face or eyes to drive it off. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be enough.

If the bear sees the person as enough of a threat to attack, then it’s not going to stop until the threat is gone. That means the human would need to leave, die, or feign death. The chances are high that the human would die or be severely injured. One thing is certain: the human is not going to win the fight.  

What Should You Do When Attacked by a Grizzly Bear?

The best thing you can do when confronted by a grizzly bear is to have prepared for an encounter with the bear before you set foot in its range. That means going into the area knowing how to handle a bear encounter.

It’s wise to bring bear spray with you. Yet, that may not be enough to stop an aggressive bear. In the case of brown bears, like grizzlies, it’s often a good idea to play dead, covering your vital areas and hoping that the bear loses interest or believes that you pose no threat to them.

Every bear encounter is different. In some cases, bears just want a person to back away from them and their young. Sometimes, bears see humans as prey and aggressively attack to feed on them. In such a case, a human has to fight back with everything they have.

Take some time to learn about bear behavior, how to safely hike in areas with bears, and the proper way to behave in various encounter scenarios.

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The Featured Image

Grizzly Bear Roaring in Winter
About 1,500 Grizzly bears live in the Lower 48 states.
© Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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Sources
  1. National Park Service, Available here: https://www.nps.gov/articles/bearfindsme.htm
  2. National Wildlife Federation, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Grizzly-Bear