Can Brown Bears Climb Trees?

This is one of the interesting and curious questions about brown bears. Knowing the answer to this question may save the lives of people when they encounter brown bears at a short distance.

Bears we see on cartoons climb a tree without a problem. However, the reality is not a cartoon. Fictional literature can be deceiving, so I decided to do my own in-depth research to find out whether the brown bears are capable of climbing trees or not.

So, can brown bears climb trees?

The answer is yes. Brown bears also known as Grizzly bears or Ursus Arctos are capable of climbing trees although they are not fond of such activities. Younger cubs and female brown bears are more likely to climb trees compared to full-grown males. Mature brown bears usually avoid climbing a tree because of their excessive weight and the structure of their claws.

A brown bear is climbing a tree.
A brown bear is climbing a tree / Credit: Pixabay

Although finding a brown bear on a tree is a rare instance, people actually witnessed such activities. These real-life instances totally destroy myths about brown bear’s tree-climbing ability.

For example, an article published in the Journal of Mammalogy in 1958 talks about an instance where a writer and two wild-life employees found a female brown bear and its 80-pound (36 kg) young cub on a large cottonwood tree in Kodiak island. When the group tried to photograph them at a closer distance, the female bear charged at them by climbing down the tree aggressively. 

There is another interesting wildlife article that discusses the climbing ability of brown bears. An author Candice Gaukel Andrews personally witnessed a brown bear’s tree climbing skills. And, she took a picture of that moment as proof.

Instances like those indicate that humans usually hold wrong perceptions about the capabilities of some animals. As far as brown bears concerned, people should be aware that brown bears are able to climb a tree. Several videos and images posted online can prove this.

You may not be able to escape from a brown bear by simply climbing a tree. 

By asking whether the brown bears can climb a tree, people usually try to guess whether they could escape a bear encounter by climbing a tree. Unfortunately, climbing a nearby tree while being chased by a brown bear is not a safe option.

The US National Park Services does not recommend climbing a tree in the case of a brown bear encounter. They mention that both grizzlies and black bears are capable of climbing trees. For example, Denali National Park Services documented 23 bear-induced human injuries and in three of those cases, grizzlies pulled people out of a tree.

Running away from brown bears is also not a recommended option. According to the same organization, brown bears can run in a speed of racehorse both uphill or downhill. 

Based on the suggestions, a person needs to stay calm and avoid making sudden movements and screams. Because radical movements and high-pitched squeal may trigger brown bears to initiate an attack.

Then, what is the best escape strategies for a brown bear encounter?

Before discussing the escape strategies, people should learn how to avoid a close encounter with bears in the first place. Keeping a distance and not surprising brown bears are two life-saving strategies. 

Almost all of the bear attack survival guides recommend not getting into the middle of a bear cub and a momma bear. Female bears (sows) are very protective of their young ones and they are not shy to initiate an attack to protect them.

According to National Park Service, if you encounter a brown bear, you need to act calmly and talk in a low tone not to alert them. If a brown bear stays stationary, people need to walk away “slowly and sideways”. Because such movements prevent people from tripping. Also, that pattern of movements allows people to keep an eye on the bear while they are moving away. In general, sudden and surprising movements look threatening for bears.  

People also need to carry bear sprays on their backpack while they are exploring the wilderness. You may learn how to use bear sprays here.

Brown bears live around trees not because they like to climb a tree but to get some of their daily calories from it. 

They do like to eat foods that are related to trees. For example, most of their diet consists of nuts, roots, berries, fruits, and fruit leaves. It may sound like brown bears are herbivores (only eating plant-based diets). In fact, they are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and a plant-based diet. 

Brown bears also like honey and they can easily raid to beehives attached to trees. 

Brown bears climb trees that have strong branches.

European brown bear is standing on a tree branch
European brown bear is standing on a tree branch /Credit: Pixabay

Smooth-barked trees or trees with weak branches are not convenient for brown bears to climb. Especially the adults that have a heavy body mass struggle to pull themselves up to the trees. Bears grab on to strong branches and use them as a ladder to climb.

Mama Brown Bears more likely to climb a tree to protect their cubs

As mentioned previously, brown bears remain in a high alert to protect their cubs. When they feel a nearby threat, they transition into attack mode. During the process, they chase the animal that is posing a threat to their cubs. They even climb a tree trying to capture that creature.

For example, someone posted a video of a stand-off between mama brown bear and black bear online. During the footage, videographer captured the moment where mama brown climbed tree trying to punish a black bear for coming closer to her pubs. Luckily, the black bear climbed higher on to the tree and brown bear gives up the chase and spares its frightened opponent.

You can watch a brown bear’s tree climbing ability in the video below:

A brown bear climbs a tree chasing a black bear / Credit: YouTube

By Arslan Batyrovich

Founder of
Writer, Researcher, Fact-finder, and All-in-one
Loves nature, Likes history, and Adores anything interesting
To get tailored writing or to work with, contact at [email protected]

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