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Grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis).

AS EUROPEANS FIRST began to explore the New World, the grizzly bear ruled a vast domain, from present-day Alaska to central Mexico and California, from the central Dakotas south into far West Texas.

When the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery blazed a trail through the West in the early 1800s, an estimated 50,000 grizzly bears patrolled the continent from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean.


European colonists settling the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains found the grizzly bear to be a dangerously formidable obstacle to progress. The fearless grizzly was seen as more than just a killer of domestic livestock. Grizzlies were symbolic of the unconquered west, an impediment and a real-life monster standing in the way of manifest destiny. Even his scientific name, Ursus arctos horribilis, suggests curdled blood.

The grizzly is a subspecies of Ursus arctos, the brown bear, which is found in North America, Asia and Europe. Bears of the Alaskan coast and its island chain that utilize spawning salmon are called brown bears like their Asian and European cousins. In North America, we call the brown bear a grizzly if he lives in inland Alaska, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta and the states of Washington, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, but they are actually brown bears like one might encounter in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece.

While counting each and every individual bear is an impossible task, the best of today's scientific estimates currently put the number of grizzlies at a mere 1,400 animals in the Lower 48 states. The current Alaska brown bear population in Alaska is estimated at approximately 31,000 animals. Perhaps, as many as 25,000 grizzlies inhabit the Canadian provinces.

From Boone & Crockett records dating back to 1830 there are a total of 792 entries that have met or exceeded the minimum entry skull size of 23 inches. Of this total, British Columbia has accounted for the most entries with 359. Alaska is second with 357, followed by Alberta (33), Yukon Territory (22), Northwest Territories (7), Montana (6), Wyoming (5), Nunavut (2) and Idaho (l).

NOTE: Entries from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are from way back when.

From a trophy perspective today, as it has been throughout history, your odds of finding the biggest bears go up exponentially in areas when bears have salmon in their diets. This is not to say "Book" bears only come from drainages where salmon are present, but we're talking about best odds here. When looking at B&C records over time, from specific locations the numbers are not as revealing as one would hope. For one, "where taken" in Alaska and Canada are tracked by location such as nearest mountain range, river drainage and lake. Consequently, entries are spread thinly over these vast areas. Shown here are the top locations all-time and over just the past 10 years from British Columbia, Alberta and Alaska. Adding to the challenge, historic B&C records we logged using a wider loop following the sophistication of mapping as time marched on. For example, back in the day the entire Brooks Range in Alaska would have been used as a location where today, this may be drilled down into more specific drainages. That is why a Brooks Range all-time number of 17 bears could be zero entries in the past 10 years.

When speaking or planning for "trophy" one must also consider we're talking about bears here and the size of their skulls. Skull size is nearly impossible for most if not all to judge in the field and a big body is not always a lock the bear will have a "Book" skull.

The punch line, any hard fought, mature grizzly is a trophy and when it comes to skull size, let the chips fall where they may. If you are still hanging on to where to put yourself for an opportunity for the biggest bears, squared or skull size, I'll defer back to my previous statement--follow the salmon.

Check Out

B&C Record Book Minimums

All-time Book             24
Awards Book               23

Entries by Location

                       ALL TIME  IN PAST 10 YEARS

1. Bella Coola River      16               1

2. Stikine River           7               3

3. Taku River              7               3

4. Meziadin Lake           7               2

5. Bella Coola             4               0

6. Prince George           3               2

7. Quesnel Lake            3               2

8. Babine Lake             2               2

9. Nass River              2               2

10. Bell-Irving River      1               1


1. Brooks Range           17               0

2. Alaska Range           12               0

3. Kuskokwim River        11               2

4. Koyuk River             9               5

5. Noatak River            9               4

6. Ungalik River           9               4

7. Anvik River             7               6

8, Squirrel River          7               4


1. Chinchaga River         2               1

2. Preston Lake            1               1

3. Swan HillS              3               1

4. Edson                   2               0

5. Sheep Creek             2               0

6. Slave Lake              2               0

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Title Annotation:B&C Trophy Search
Author:Balfourd, Keith
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2010
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