Can Grizzly Bears Climb Trees? (7 Things You Need To Know!)


Grizzlies are one of the biggest and tallest bears in the world. In fact, they weigh over 800 lbs and are about 8ft tall when they stand on their feet.

Talking about their size and weight, do you think they can climb trees?

Quick Answer – Yes! Grizzly bears can climb trees.

They climb trees with their long claws, going up as high as the tree can enable them, although they seldom do this.

So many people think that it is just the young ones that can climb trees while the adult grizzlies don’t because of their size and long claws.

This is not true. Adult grizzlies climb trees, though it is difficult for them. As long as they find strong branches to carry their weight, they move up higher.

Now, you’ve known that grizzly bears can climb trees; 

Have you thought about what you will do when you encounter them? Should you run or quickly climb a tree?

Let’s find out below!

Encountering A Grizzly Bear – Should You Run Or Climb A Tree?

Grizzly bears can run as fast as a moving vehicle both in highlands and lowlands. Don’t always try to approach them.

When you encounter them, don’t run; Just avoid eye contact and go away
slowly in an adjacent direction. 

This makes you not appear as a threat to them and also helps you monitor them while leaving.

Remember not to go in the opposite direction of the bear or it will chase you.

When you make the mistake of running, the grizzly bear sees you as prey and pursues you.

If you’ve taken to your heels already, just stop and hold your ground. 

Make yourself look as big as possible then they will go their way. Don’t play dead

When a grizzly bear pursues you, don’t climb a tree!

They can climb with you and you will be stuck there with them, which may not end well.  They can decide to shake or push down the tree so that you fall and they will feast on you.

If neither of these tricks worked, they will relax and wait for you down the tree. 

So you see, running and climbing trees are not safe ways of escaping the grizzly bear’s attack

Why Would A Grizzly Bear Climb A Tree?

Grizzlies are not made to climb trees, it is not their adaptive measure, therefore it is so uncommon to find them climbing trees.

There are 3 main reasons why adult grizzlies will climb a tree.

  • Chasing their prey 
  • Feeling threatened
  • Looking for food

Chasing Their Prey

Grizzly bears are the highest in their food chain, and this makes them chief predators.

They do not have major threats outside wolf packs and human beings, thus there’s rarely a need to climb trees to escape from predators.

Grizzly bears climb trees when they are after their prey, usually elks, deer, other species of bear, and humans.

Feeling Threatened

Grizzly bears are solitary and territorial creatures. They don’t mind climbing up and down a tree to defend their young ones.

They rarely feel threatened themselves, their cubs are the main reason they go up trees. 

This is done to protect them and make sure they are safe from their predators.

Looking for Food

Grizzly bears eat both plants/vegetables and meat, hence, they are omnivorous animals.

More than 70% of their diets are plants but their strong sense of smell (more than 20 miles away from where they are) helps them locate their prey even when they are hanging on trees.

All they have to do is to climb the tree and hunt down the meat. 

So, humans and animals running to a tree during a grizzly bear’s attack stand chances of losing their lives.

How Do Grizzly Bears Climb Trees?

When they want to climb the tree, their head is up and they use tree branches to pull themselves up. 

They also use their naked front paw to take a grip on the tree trunk with support from nearby trees. Majorly, tree branches serve as the grizzly bear’s ladder while climbing a tree.

Grizzly bears do not have flexible wrist bones to enable them in their tree climbing exercise.

They have long, straight and sharp claws that also give them so much difficulty when they want to climb trees. However, they manage to climb these trees using them.

How High Can A Grizzly Bear Climb?

An adult grizzly bear  climbing a tree

They normally go as high as 2.5meters (8ft). Adult grizzly bears are not good climbers. 

Their weight and size are limiting factors to their climbing ability. Therefore, it’s rare to see them climb.

Because of their huge body size, they don’t climb so high that the tree branches will break and they will fall. 

On the other hand, Their cubs are young and agile, so they can quickly climb as high as 6 meters (20ft).

How Fast Can A Grizzly Bear Climb?

Full-grown grizzly bears are not so fast in climbing trees.

They are slow and happen to take their time while climbing, if not they will end up on the floor.

This is due to their anatomy, large size, and weight.

Nevertheless, there’s no record of how fast or slow a grizzly bear can be while climbing.

Being fast or slow will depend on how large the tree branches are to help the bear move up. 

But there are records of grizzly bear attacks. It was said that the grizzly pursued a human up a tree for about 30 ft in a few minutes.

What Type Of Trees Can A Grizzly Bear Climb?

Due to the grizzly’s claws, they do not have a strong grip on tree trunks when climbing. 

They take tree branches as their ladders to move up. 

Hence, the bear needs a tree with lots of strong branches to strengthen their push upward and also support their heavy weight.

Examples of trees that grizzly bear likes to climb are –

  • Whitebark pine 
  • Canopies

Whitebark pine

Whitebark pine - a sturdy tree that a bear can climb

Whitebark pine is a high elevation tree with large tree trunks and wide spreading branches.

Grizzly bears are confident climbing it because the tree trunk and the broad branches are strong enough to carry their weight. 

Canopies

Canopy trees are also known as shade trees. They are big trees with wide shelter or vegetation coverings.

They usually grow close to each other, making a large leaf roof in the lowlands. 

Examples of canopy trees are oaks, elms,  crepe myrtles, and birches. 

Grizzly bears climb these trees because they easily find thick branches to support their journey up the tree. 

Can A Bear Cub Climb Trees?

A bear cub on top of a tree

Yes, a bear cub can climb a tree. 

These cubs are young and energetic, so climbing up a tree is not a problem for them. 

They use their short and small curved claws to grip the tree trunk and climb as much as they want. 

Surprisingly, they can even climb up to 50 ft high. 

To come down from the tree, they require help because these trees can be flaky. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, grizzly bears can climb trees. However, they don’t normally do it due to their weight and size. 

Grizzlies can climb with the use of their claws and tree branches. 

When you encounter a grizzly bear, don’t run, don’t pretend to be dead, or decide to climb a tree. Instead of running or climbing a tree, walk away quietly in a side direction. 

That way it wouldn’t pursue you or see you as a threat. 

Grizzlies climb trees because of their prey when they feel threatened and to find food. 

Wouldn’t you also love to learn what kind of food they eat? Read our article, Are Grizzly Bears Carnivores or Omnivores?”