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Bear Identification - Color Variations

Not all grizzlies are "grizzled" and not all black bears are black!

Silver tip grizzly bear

A "Silvertip"

Despite the names "grizzly" and "black," coat color is the least reliable characteristic for identifying bears. For instance, grizzlies may be pale-almost luminous blond, or reddish blond, light brown, darker brown, or even almost black. To add to the confusion, the common name grizzly is derived from the term "grizzled," which refers to white-tipped hair. Grizzled hair occurs mainly on the back and shoulders; thus, from a distance, a grizzly bear appears to have darker legs and lighter upper parts. Incidentally, it is to this "grizzled" or frosted appearance of the coat that the great bear owes its nickname of "silvertip". But not all grizzly bears have "grizzled" hair or are deserving of their nickname. And to complicate matters just a bit more, black bears, despite their name, are not always black. They can also be brown, cinnamon, blond, or a combination of light and dark hair.