Bear in mind the differences between grizzlies and black bears
With all the hype surrounding the Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley’s $153 million contract, Chandler Parsons’ agreement to join the team and the hiring of a new head coach, David Fizdale – bears all around Memphis have been feeling the love (including ours!). Before taking your family and friends to check out our grizzly bears or black bears, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
It’s not as simple as distinguishing between their black or brown fur. In fact, despite its name, the black bear can be black, blue-gray, blue-black, brown, cinnamon or even white, while grizzly bear fur can range from black to blonde. There are a few characteristics that differentiate the two, however. Bear with us as we break it down for you!
Grin and Bear It
One indicator is the profile of the bear’s face. A grizzly bear has a concave or “dished” facial profile and smaller, rounded ears while the black bear has a flatter, “Roman-nose” profile and taller ears.
Even though grizzlies are typically larger than black bears, there is an overlap on the sizing of these animals, making this feature an unreliable indicator of which species is which. The size of the bear’s claws, however, is a different story! The grizzly bear has much larger claws than the black bear. Grizzlies’ claws are long and light while black bears’ claws are short and dark.
Both grizzly and black bears are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants. But, believe it or not, their diet is 75% plant-based. The grizzly bears typically prefer berries and other fruits while the black bears eat grasses, roots, berries, insects, fish and meat. Our bears get a diet filled with various fruits and veggies plus an omnivore chow, which is similar to a dog food, but made for bears, in addition to beef and fish. Amounts vary widely depending on the season.
Next time you visit the Memphis Zoo, visit the Northwest Passage to check out our black bears and Teton Trek to view our grizzly bears. While you’re at it, tell the keepers everything you’ve learned about bears! If you want to see the grizzly bears being fed, visit Teton’s underwater viewing at 1:00 daily. We hope to see you there!