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The grizzly bears are Canada's largest carnivores. They are called grizzly bears because of the appearance of their fur. Their fur is tipped with white or silver otherwise described as 'grizzled'. The grizzly coat ranges from honey to various shades of brown to almost black. Smaller than the polar bears but bigger than the black bears, the grizzly bears can grow to as large as 2.6 meters in length and adults weigh about 410 kg. The size varies according to the food availability in their range.

The grizzly bears were once found across North America from South Alaska to Mexico. The Mexican grizzlies are considered extinct and the United States population has dropped from over 100,000 in the mid 1800s to between 700-900 today. Canada represents the last country in which the grizzly bears survive in any significant numbers. However, their official status is considered 'vulnerable'.

Grizzly bears need a huge range for their survival. Females require less space and several female bears may inhabit one male's territory. These bears inhabit a variety of landscapes, such as mountainous areas, the salmon estuaries of coastal British Columbia and the treeless tundra of the Northwest Territories. Their diet includes both small animals and plants. They eat fish, berries, bulbs, shoots, nuts, grass, fruits, flowers, bees, beavers, squirrels, mountain sheep and carcasses of dead animals.

During winter, grizzly bears can hibernate for up to six months because of the limited supply of food. Prior to hibernating, grizzlies eat voraciously to build up their reserves of body fat. They hibernate in a spacious den with a floor lined with branches, leaves and grass. Sometimes, they store up their food in shallow holes for future consumption. Coastal grizzlies feast on salmon during the annual salmon run.
The main threats to the grizzly bears are logging and the loss of their habitats. These predators require large tracts of pristine wilderness for their survival. Even in British Columbia with its rugged mountain ranges and valleys, the number of grizzly bears declined due to habitat loss. Conflicts with humans in agricultural areas sometimes lead to the killing of 'problem' grizzlies. Improper disposal of food can also create problems as the bears are drawn to this convenient supply of food. Many bears are killed by humans in acts of 'self-defense' each year, when often common sense could have prevented a dangerous encounter.

Legal hunting while carefully monitored, may be removing more grizzlies than can be replaced. Grizzlies are the slowest reproducing large carnivores in North America. Females breed only once every two years. Litters are usually one or two cubs although as many as four can be produced. Conservation organizations and wildlife managers suggest that no more than three percent of grizzlies should be hunted. However, the present hunting rates exceed four percent in some areas.

Development pressures also threaten the grizzlies. Developments such as hydroelectric projects, ski resorts, and logging can cause soil erosion which silts the rivers from which these bears fish. Roads also attract grizzlies since berries grow in abundance in cleared areas. The result is more vehicle-killed bears.

To protect these endangered animals, wildlife conservation organizations have sought to protect their natural habitats by making them protected areas. The most recent achievement has been the formation of several new protected areas which are home to grizzly bears and other large carnivores such as wolverines and cougars. Despite strong development pressure, the Wind valley, just east of Banff National Park has been set aside as a protected habitat.

  1. How did the grizzly bears get their name ?
  2. 'Were once found across North America ...'. Explain the expression in italics.
  3. In which countries can we find the grizzly bears ?
  4. What kinds of terrain can the grizzly bears be found ?
  5. What is the official status of the grizzly bears and what does it suggest ?
  6. What happens when winter approaches ?
  7. The grizzly bears inhabit 'a variety of landscapes'. Which one of the landscapes are they found if their main diet is 'fish' ?

(a) Why do grizzlies 'build up their reserves of body fat' ?

(b) Explain, in your own words how it is done.

  9. Give one example when 'common sense' can prevent a dangerous encounter with the bears.
  10. What is the usual breeding pattern of the grizzly bears ?
  11. Why do some grizzly bears end up being killed by vehicles ?
  12. Why do you think berries 'grow in abundance' in cleared areas ?
  13. In what way are the grizzly bears being protected from becoming extinct ?
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  1. The grizzly bears got their name because of the appearance of their furs which is tipped with white or silver.
  2. It means 'used to be'.
  3. They can be found in Canada dn the United States.
  4. They can be found in different terrains like the mountainous areas, coastal areas and even int he treeless tundra of the Northwest Territories.
  5. Their official status is 'vulnerable' suggesting that they are in slight danger of becoming extinct.
  6. When winter is near, they eat more to build up their reserves of fat.
  7. It is the estuaries of Coastal British Columbia.

(a) It is because during winter, the supply of food is limited.

(b) They eat furiously / insatiably.

  9. One way is to dispose of food properly such that the bears will not be drawn to it.
  10. The female bears breed only once every two years usually with one or two cubs.
  11. They are attracted to the berries which grow in abundance beside the roads.
  12. Berries thrive in sunlight and cleared roads allow sunlight to reach the forest floor.
  13. Some areas which are the natural habitats of the bears have been made 'protected areas'.

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Comprehension 1


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