Glacier Bears

The glacier bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii), also known as the blue bear, is a subspecies of American black bear that has silver-blue or gray hair.


The glacier bear is endemic to Southeast Alaska along the seaward front of the Mount St. Elias Range, about Yakutat Bay and southeast to Glacier Bay. They prefer forest and terrain with lots of vegetation, but can be found in urban areas.

The glacier bear’s habitat is dependent on the availability of food. These bears move between forest, meadows, streams, and mountains in search of food and shelter.


Glacier bears have most of the features of other types of black bears. The main difference is the color of the glacier bear’s fur. It can be silvery blue to grey. These colors are more common on the back and shoulder of the bear. The stomach area and legs are usually darker in color.


The glacier bear is an omnivorous mammal. Glacier bears eat young plants, roots, and salmon. Blueberries, salmonberries, raspberries, and cranberries are also part of the bear’s diet. They use their claws to dig up mice, ground squirrels, and marmots from their burrows.


Female glacier bears can reproduce between the ages of 3-5 years and onward. Mating takes place between June and July. Their gestation lasts for about 365 days. Cubs are born in January or February. The cubs will remain with their mother for about one and a half years, during which time she will not become pregnant again.


Due to interbreeding, likely, the rare color of the glacier bear will no longer occur. Glacier bears are no longer a separate species and are now mating with other black bears in the area. The increasing presence of humans within the bears’ range and risk of increased numbers of bears killed by hunters are also threats to the bear’s existence.

Interesting Facts About Glacier Bears

  • Glacier bears move into their dens in early winter, which can be an overturned tree, a rock ledge, or a cave.
  • The hibernation period sometimes exceeds six months.
  • The average life expectancy of glacier bears in the wild is estimated to be between 20 and 30 years.

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