Watch This Angry Grizzly Bear Do Its Best Shark Impression and Swim After a Boat

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: April 28, 2023
© Michal_K/
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Key Points

  • Their considerable bulk notwithstanding, grizzly bears are skilled swimmers.
  • Their body fat and oil-coated fur also help to keep them afloat in the water.
  • However, their choice of swimming stroke expends a great deal of energy without providing a great deal of speed.

If you did not know that grizzly bears can swim, this vid may be a bit shocking. It looks as if the bear is annoyed with the boat and is possibly chasing it away. Or, it may be curious and is coming over to investigate. Either way, it is a startling sight and a grizzly bear is not an animal that you would want climbing aboard your very small boat in a fast flowing river!

Spotting a Grizzly Bear

According to the US National Park Service, brown bears and grizzly bears are both names for the species Ursus arctos. However, we refer to the slightly larger bears that live in coastal areas of Alaska and have a fish-rich diet as brown bears. Whereas, the inland bears that don’t really eat marine sourced food and are a little smaller are referred to as grizzly bears. They are considered a subspecies (Ursus arctos horribilis) of brown bear. Both are larger than black bears which are a different species.

A grizzly bear’s high-fat content and oily coat helps them to float in water

©Antoni Murcia/

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Brown bears have a few distinctive features that allow you to identify them. The most reliable is the prominent shoulder hump. This is actually a mass of muscle that they have developed to help them dig for food in the ground. They dig up the earth to look for roots and small rodents and this muscle helps them to be highly effective diggers! You may also notice that their rump is lower than their shoulder hump and their face profile sinks in between their eyes and the tip of their snout. Their ears are short and round.

Are Grizzlies Good Swimmers?

At times it looks like this bear may be struggling in the water but that is unlikely. Brown bears are generally excellent swimmers. You may think that their thick fur and heavy build would make them sink! Actually, their high-fat content and oily coat makes them very buoyant. However, they use a ‘doggy paddle’ stroke which is not very fast and uses up a lot of energy so they don’t get in the water for fun!

Bears enter the water primarily to reach food. This bear may have been trying to reach another patch of land where it thought it would find something to eat. Even if it was struggling, it is likely to float until it reaches a shore and will then climb out.

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Grizzly bears fishing in Brooks River
Grizzly bears fishing in Brooks River
© Michal_K/

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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