I continue year of the bear with more trees.

Can grizzly bears climb trees?

  • too many bear questions ;) Let's try bear.org/website/bear-pages/best-bear-books.html Mar 8, 2016 at 22:09
  • Many years ago when Yellowstone had a lot of black bears; I stopped alone, on a back road to watch a couple of young black bears , roughly 200 lb. For no apparent reason , one ran across the road and RAN up a tree ,about 30 ft as I remember. He went up the tree faster than I could have run down a paved road , fortunately I was of no interest to him/her. Jan 25, 2018 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


Why yes they can climb trees, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A common misconception is that grizzly bears, unlike black bears, cannot climb trees. While its long claws make climbing more difficult for a grizzly than for a black bear, a grizzly can get to you in a tree – it will more likely, however, be able to reach you before you reach the tree.

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    I like the "but you won't make it to the tree anyways" part. Really though I'm less worried about fleeing them and just curious about their ability. Mar 9, 2016 at 13:05
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    Alternatively they will just shake the tree until you fall off, or the tree falls over. (Seen both in a local bear park where young brown bears were playing with each other.)
    – fgysin
    Mar 9, 2016 at 15:22

A grizzly bear can climb a tree with relative ease if it has branches large enough for it to grab onto, but they can't climb trees like a black bear can, especially a larger grizzly, they're much more able in trees when they're younger and smaller.

Climbing a tree is in fact an effective method of avoiding a Grizzly bear that may be following you, but it is not an effective way of escaping a bear, not unless you can climb fast and jump from tree to tree. If a bear is on the trail behind you, drop something on the trail to distract it (NOT FOOD!) leave you hiking poles, a back pack, hat, anything that might peak a bears interest or curiousity and potentially stall them on the trail while they stop to investigate. You will need the extra time to get out of the bears sight and find a tall tree to climb up and hide in.

You must select your tree wisely when trying to avoid a bear. The tree has to be tall enough that you can get up well above the bear's reach, preferably high enough that you could hide up in it, and the branches need to be small enough that the bear couldn't easily climb up after you if it were to try. You also need to be careful that the tree is strong enough that a big bear can't push it over, there have been documented cases of big bears pushing trees down to get hikers out of them.

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    This video of a grizzly chasing a black bear up a tree seems to indicate otherwise. Grizzly starts climbing at 0:43: youtube.com/watch?v=dPnp3fLOER8 Mar 9, 2016 at 13:04
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    Yup. That grizzly did not even bother with branches and was still climbing faster than any hiker could reasonably expect to climb themselves.
    – fgysin
    Mar 9, 2016 at 15:26
  • @fgysin She sure did, I've never seen anything like that before, and that's exactly what the guy in the video says too. This isn't typical behaviour for a grizzly, that bear was a smaller grizzly as well, which I mention in my answer are more able in trees, but males can get twice that size, you won't see a big male doing that. Keep in mind too I clearly state that climbing a tree isn't how you escape a bear, if it's coming after you your last resort is to fight it. I'd argue you'd have a better chance fighting a bear in a tree than on the ground, you could kick it while it's paws are full.
    – ShemSeger
    Mar 9, 2016 at 16:10
  • @RussellSteen you'd probably stand a better chance against a bear in a tree than another bear would. The bottom bear has the advantage between two bears because the top bear has to turn around to fight. People on the other hand can use gravity and their boot heels to kick the bear in it's face. I personally would rather fight a bear in a tree than on the ground, but the whole point of climbing the tree is to hide, and hope the bear doesn't notice you, or decides not to bother with you and keep moving on down the trail. Also, that's a smaller Grizzly, I doubt you'd see a big male doing that.
    – ShemSeger
    Mar 9, 2016 at 16:16
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    @ShemSeger if you're fighting a grizzly hand-to-paw then you're having a very bad day. That being said, I don't think that kicking a bear in a tree is any advantage. It seems to me the bear would just rip you out of the tree by your leg. The only way I can see being in a tree is advantageous is if you can climb high enough, fast enough, so the bear can't follow you to the tippy top of the tree. At that point you just have to hold on until the bear leaves and hope they don't shake you out.
    – Erik
    Mar 9, 2016 at 19:13

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