Do Grizzly Bears Eat Meat? (A Guide To a Bear’s Diet)


If you have watched Winnie the Pooh, it’s good to assume that bears love eating honey. But do you know if grizzlies can eat meat too?

Quick Answer  –  Yes, Grizzly bears eat meat.

In fact, they eat meat as much as they eat plants. 

The grizzly bear eats salmon, marine animals, carrions, young calves of elks, bison, deer, caribou, etc. 

They also eat insects, rodents (squirrels), moose, mammoth, sheep, and mountain goats. In addition, they can even consume dried fish and animal carcasses.

It doesn’t sound strange that grizzlies eat all these animals. 

They have strong canines that help them devour and break the bones of their prey. But the kind of meat they eat depends on the time and seasons of the year.

You now understand that grizzly bears are also meat-eaters. 

Now, let’s discuss the common types of animals a grizzly bear eats!

What Kind Of Animals Do Grizzly Bears Commonly Eat?

Here is the kind of meat that grizzly bears commonly eat – 

Fish

Grizzly bears have great swimming ability that helps them to hunt fish, drag them to the water bank, and kill and feed on them. 

They are quite patient in their hunt; they wait for the fish to come closer, then they will strike. 

The type of fish the grizzlies eat is mainly salmon, and salmon fish is a good source of fatty acids. This fatty acid boosts the grizzly bear’s stamina to stay without food hibernation. 

Deer

Grizzly bears hunt weak and defenseless young calves of the deer species.  Sometimes, they hunt down the larger ones (adults). 

Elks

Grizzly bears use their powerful teeth, strength, speed, and strong sense of smell,  to hunt elks. 

They mainly prey on their young calves and move on to chasing their adults when the calves are not available. 

Bison

In the later months of summer, when the male bison species fights and kills each other to mate with the female bison, grizzly bears feed on their dead bodies as they go around scavenging for food.

Caribou

Grizzly bears kill and eat newborn caribou as their good source of fat and protein. 

Sheep

Domestic animals like sheep are the major prey of the grizzly bear. 

Whenever a grizzly sights a sheep, it chases it until it successfully kills it. 

Then it feeds on the carcass as another source of fat and protein. 

Mountain goats

Mountain goat leaves in cliffs and mountainous regions where grizzly bears cannot hunt them.

But when they are tired and decide to go down the cliff, they become major prey to grizzly bears. 

Grizzly bears commonly kill young mountain goats because they are defenseless and are no match for them. 

Occasionally, they catch and kill adult goats too, but sometimes, these goats fight back. 

How Often Do Grizzly Bears Eat Meat?

A grizzly bear eats more often than you can imagine. 

They spend more than 20 hours of their day hunting and eating food. 

They eat as much as 80-90 lbs (36.288 kg) of food per day. 

And this eating rate increases during fall, when they need to put up extra fat for their hibernation. 

How Do Grizzly Bears Eat Meat?

Photo of a grizzly bear eating meat

Aside from biting the hunted animal on its neck to kill it, grizzly bears use their strong paws to break their spines. 

When they are done killing it, they start eating it from their chest up to the head, and then down the hip. 

Grizzlies kill adult moose, deer, and elk and feed on their dead bodies for several days.  When they are tired of eating for that day, they hide the meat from other animals. 

Grizzlies hide their leftover meat by burying it under the ground only to continue the next day. 

The Grizzly Bear Diet

Grizzly bears eat both plants and animals. They are adaptive and flexible in their feeding. 

They take their nourishment on plants like seeds, fruits, grasses, fleshy roots and tubers, Forbes, berries, etc 

This plant food makes up to 90% of the grizzly’s daily diet.

When grizzlies are out to hunt, they kill and eat salmon fish, insects, marine mammals, carrion, elks, caribou, moose,  deer, etc. 

They usually chase after the young ones of these animals and rarely their adults. 

They also prey on sheep and mountain goats. These meats make up the remaining 10% of the grizzly’s daily diet. 

Their diet is determined by the time of the year. 

Credit to Yellowstone National Park

Winter

Grizzlies don’t come out in winter

Everywhere is iced up, so they go into their den for hibernation. 

At this time the bear stays without food having eaten extra during the fall. 

This food sustains it throughout the 5-7 months of hibernation. 

Spring

When grizzly bears come out of hibernation, food is not abundant. 

At this time they are so hungry that they can eat anything. Trees are dried and only grasses on the ground level are available. 

Grizzlies go in search of food, luckily they can find spring beauty, dead moose and deer, and even berries. 

Summer

By Summer leaves begin to green and spread their flowers. 

Grizzlies are happy they can find food in abundance. 

They start eating a lot of energy-giving food like fleshy roots and tubers, bistort, grasses, seeds, fruits, and over 200,000 berries in one day. 

Fall

Fall is the time the grizzly bear used to eat enough, even extra for its winter hibernation. 

During this time, the food supply is not stable, so the bear wanders as much as it can in search of food. 

In fall salmon is in abundance, so grizzly bears eat salmon, marine animals, fleshy roots, and calves of elk, deer, and carrions. 

Do Grizzly Bears Eat Fish?

A grizzly bear eating eating salmon fish

Yes! Grizzly bears eat fish. 

They eat lots of it, especially salmon. Grizzly bears hunt big salmon fish in large streams and rivers. 

In certain months (July & August) salmon fish is predominant and moves through these water bodies. 

Grizzlies wait for them and kill them for food.

During salmon runs, lakes and rivers can create barriers that help migrate salmon. 

This is good news for the grizzly bear. 

It will catch and eat plenty of salmon (more than 30 fish in one day) without putting much effort. 

When the salmon run is over and a large number of fish stop migrating, the grizzly bear goes somewhere else or finds something else to eat. 

Do Grizzly Bears Eat Human Meat?

No, Grizzly bears do not commonly eat human meat. 

Grizzly bears keep to themselves and stay away from human beings. They do not see humans as prey. 

Their attacks on human beings happen rarely, only when they are starving or feel threatened by the human presence. 

They can also strike to defend themselves and their young ones, but this happens in one out of a million cases.

From records, only one or two persons die out of a grizzly attack in a year. 

They can eat human meat while searching for food, but it is naturally not part of their diet. 

This means that the likelihood of a grizzly bear eating human meat is 1:4.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, grizzly bears eat meat. The grizzly’s diet is composed of 90% plants and 10% meat.

They eat salmon fish, marine animals, carrions, young calves of elks, bison, deer, caribou, etc. 

They also eat insects, rodents (squirrels), moose, mammoth, sheep, and mountain goats.

They spend almost the whole day hunting and eating these animals as well as vegetation; summing up to 80 pounds of food each day. 

Grizzlies kill their prey by biting them with their sharp canines and breaking their spines with their foreclaws. 

They eat fish, especially salmon that they caught in lakes and other water bodies. 

Grizzly bears are not known to prey on human beings, they only do it in their defense and when they feel threatened.

You’ve successfully come to the end of this article, and you’ve learned that grizzly bears eat meat. 

Now, check out our article: “Are Grizzly Bears Omnivores or Carnivores” to learn how much grizzly bears love to eat meat.