People Can't Stop Fighting Over Whether Or Not There Are Grizzly Bears in Colorado

Colorado was once home to a massive population of the fearsome bears, but these days, it's a bit more complicated.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

Apr. 29 2024, Published 11:29 a.m. ET

Two-year-old grizzly bear
Source: Getty Images

Grizzly bears are part of the brown bear family, with both types of bears having brown coats and a formidable shape that can quickly go from cuddly to terrifying if you happen to stumble upon one in the wild. Unlike brown bears, grizzly bears typically live further in-land, and are slightly smaller. But that decreased stature doesn't make them any less majestic to spot in the wild... that is of course, unless you live in Colorado, where wild sightings have become less frequent.

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In fact, determining whether there are grizzly bears in Colorado remains debatable. Some experts say that grizzlies have been completely killed off in the Centennial State, while others say that there's just not enough proof either way. Read on as we try and answer the burning question once and for all: Are there grizzly bears in Colorado?

Sign reads grizzly bear area special  rules apply
Source: Getty Images
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Are there grizzly bears in Colorado?

There haven't been any confirmed sightings of grizzly bears in Colorado since 1979, when an unlucky hunter stumbled up on a sleeping bear, an encounter which left both of them fighting for their lives. While Uncover Colorado says that the female bear ultimately died from the wounds inflected upon her by Ed Wiseman, the archer survived and shared his tale with authorities.

Believed to be the last bear of her kind in Colorado, the remains of the bear — which include the skull and fur — are on display at the Museum of Nature & Science in Denver. That being said, not everyone thinks that Coloradans have seen the last grizzly in nature. In fact, one expert says that there are still grizzly bear sightings, there just haven't been any official confirmations about whether they are the real deal or not.

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Grizzly bears in Colorado only exist in zoos and sanctuaries.

If you're hoping to get your eyes on a grizzly in Colorado, you'll likely have to pay for the opportunity. According to the Denver Gazette, there are three places that are home to grizzlies in the state.

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The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo holds two male grizzlies, while the Denver Zoo has Alaskan-born Tundra, who experts believe is around 20 years old. If you'd rather have a more natural experience with these majestic animals, you can stop by the Wild Animal Sanctuary, which features a raised walking platform that allows guests to view a variety of animals as they roam the countryside below.

Before you head to the zoo, consider the ethical ramifications of visiting these captive creatures. The World Animal Foundation has called zoos out over the conditions animals are housed in, including the small sizes of their enclosures and zoos' inability to meet animals' needs in captivity. Instead, animal sanctuaries are a much more humane alternative, as they rescue animals and better replicate the conditions these animals would expect to encounter in the wild.

Of course, if your dream includes seeing a grizzly in the wild wild, then you'll need to head to states like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington state, or Alaska where the bears still roam. Just as long as you remember to keep your distance, that is!

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