What Do Grizzly Bears Eat? Their Diets Explained

Written by Leslie Statt
Published: October 5, 2021


What Do Grizzly Bears Eat
Grizzly bears eat a diet that’s 90% vegetation like berries, nuts, and roots. In addition they’ll eat salmon and other opportunistic meats such as deer calves

The Grizzly bear, a subspecies of the brown bear, is a smaller, lighter-colored version of the sometimes cute and often frightening mammal. 

Humans assume that the 700 to 1700 pound massive animals stalk wooded trails waiting to kill anything that crosses their path viciously, but that’s pretty far from the truth. Contrary to what many may assume, what grizzly bear’s eat consists of about 90% vegetarian foods!  

Who Competes with Grizzly Bears for Food? 

Strongest animal bite – Grizzly bear
Grizzly bears feast on everything from salmon and trout to large animals such as moose and elk.

In North America, Grizzly bears most often compete with wolves for food and prey. Although bears consume much more vegetation than wolves, they are the two known predators of Yellowstone National Park. However, the real predator to both of these animals is humans.

What Do Grizzly Bears Eat?

Grizzly bears eat a diet that’s 90% vegetation, but they are incredibly adaptable in their diets and eat everything from salmon, to marine mammals, to insects, berries, and roots. What grizzly bears eat is dependent on the time of year and what’s available in that specific region. For example, when grizzly bears come out of hibernation in the spring, there may not be a lot of options as the snow melts away and the buds begin to blossom, but a grizzly always finds a way. 

Grizzlies will often scavenge about after a winter’s hibernation, finding carrion, like dried fish carcasses and other dead animals the winter left behind.

A Complete of What Grizzly Bears Eat

What Do Grizzly Bears Eat - Berries
A grizzly bear feasting on berries
  • Carrion
  • Marine mammals
  • Plants
  • Salmon 
  • Fish
  • Rodents
  • Insects
  • Moths
  • Grass
  • Tubers
  • Sedges
  • Pine seeds
  • Acorns 
  • Nuts
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Puffballs
  • Roots
  • Flowers
  • Garbage

Newborn calves of:

How Does The Grizzly Bear’s Diet Impact Other Species?

What do grizzly bears eat - leaves
A grizzly bear eating leaves

Due to climate change, the demise of whitebark pine trees has greatly affected a staple of the grizzly bear’s diet, forcing bears to leave sanctuaries and search elsewhere for food.

Often grizzlies end up migrating through ranches and farms, leading to the possibility of livestock casualties and creating a somewhat villainous relationship between humans (who own the livestock) and grizzlies. 

How Much Do Grizzly Bears Eat?

Grizzly bears are grazing animals, eating more plants, berries, and insects than anything else. In the fall, when berries are abundant, grizzly bears can eat 200,000 a day! 

In the late summer months, moths are plentiful at the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains, which suits grizzlies just fine. These big guys can eat up to 40,000 moths a day! Regardless of what they eat, grizzlies can consume up to 90 pounds of food a day! 

Are Grizzly Bears Dangerous to Humans?

Of course, grizzly bears can be dangerous, as can most animals trying to survive in the wild. In all honesty, one could say that humans are more dangerous to grizzly bears than the other way around.

Many believe that once, bears walked alongside humans and were able to live in harmony, but now many assume that bears attack humans without reason; this simply isn’t true. In most cases, a bear will only attack as a response to fear from  

  • Being surprised 
  • Defending cubs
  • Protecting food.

What Do Different Types of Grizzly Bears Eat?

What do grizzly bears eat - eating a salmon
A grizzly bear feasting on a salmon

All bears eat what they can find, but that can strongly depend on what is available. For example, bears near oceans feast on dead whales and seals that wash up on the shore, while bears near fresh streams, lakes, and rivers wait in the water to catch fatty fish like salmon. 

Coastal grizzlies will take full advantage of whatever sea life that particular body of water has to offer.

How Do Grizzly Bears Hunt?

Grizzly bears are omnivores, eating a mix of mostly plants, fruits, and animal protein. Grizzlies combine scavenger, predator, and grazer, using their adaptable nature to combat hyperphagia, as they find foods to put on as much fat as possible for the long, cold winter months. 

Grizzlies will often eat things that are already dead and small rodents or insects that they dig out of the ground or rotting logs. Sometimes grizzlies will seek out and eat newborn calves of animals. 

What Do Grizzly Bear Cubs Eat?

What do grizzly bears eat - grizzly bear cubs
Grizzly bear cubs grow rapidly!

Bears are born during winter hibernation when cubs exist solely on the nutrition of mother’s milk until the spring when they begin to try out solid foods. Grizzly bear cubs grow rather rapidly, reaching up to 200 pounds by the end of their first year of life.