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The black bear and the grizzly bear are often in the same areas. To identify a bear in Wyoming, look for a combination of the most reliable characteristics, which are listed on this page. Neither color nor size should be used for identification.

Grizzly Bear Characteristics

Grizzly bears are also called brown bears.

  • Grizzlies have a distinctive hump on their shoulders made of muscles used in foraging and digging.
  • From the side, the face will appear to be dished between the eyes and the end of the nose.
  • Their claws are typically 2½ inches or more in length and are gently curved as an adaptation for digging. Their claws are often visible from a distance, unlike a black bear's claws.
  • Although often difficult to distinguish, the grizzly’s ears are smaller and more rounded than the black bear’s ears.
  • The color may vary from blonde to black. Dark-colored grizzlies often have light-colored tips on the longer guard hairs. Grizzlies may appear to be black in the shade.
Grizzly Bear characteristics

Black Bear Characteristics

  • Black bears have no shoulder hump, although they may appear to when digging.
  • They have a straight face in profile that is not dished like the grizzly.
  • Their claws are relatively short (1½ inches at most) and are sharply curved for climbing trees or tearing logs apart.
  • The black bear’s ears tend to be more erect, more pointed, and larger in proportion to the head.
  • Hair color is not a good indication of species. Color phases can vary in Wyoming black bears from brown to cinnamon to black.
Black Bear characteristics