The brown bear has the widest distribution of any bear. The species and its subspecies are known by many names, including grizzly, Kodiak, and Gobi bear. Its specific status and ecology in many northern environments is not well-known.
Only 45-50 brown bears are found at any given time in Norway, which shares most of its population with Sweden. The Swedish population has grown from an estimated 294 animals in 1942 to about 1,000 today, and its range has increased as well. Finland, too, has been successful in restoring its brown bear population. Since the late 1970s, despite hunting pressures, the population has grown to more than 800 bears.
Russia has the largest brown bear population in the world, with an estimated population of at least 125,000 animals. It is a common game species in most areas, and European Russia experienced a considerable increase in numbers and range in the late 1970s and 1980s. In the late 1990s, however, the populations in Kola and Karelia decreased. The range of brown bears is expected to remain stable in Asian Russia, although extensive poaching in the Far East will likely cause regional declines.
Humans are the most significant source of mortality for adult brown bears. Hunting, human-bear conflicts, and poaching can become significant problems. This is especially true in areas where the human presence is increasing and bears begin to associate humans with garbage and other sources of food. Habitat fragmentation and loss from industrial and other development contributes substantially to overall brown bear mortality. In a few areas, brown bear populations have been reduced to increase the populations of other animals, such as moose. Although the global population of brown bears is in good shape today, the combination of these and other impacts such as climate change are threats to the species in many areas.
Robert J. Gau, Northwest Territories Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. From the CAFF publication, Arctic Flora and Fauna, www.caff.is