The videos of brown or grizzly bears were taken at Katmai National Park in Alaska.
The black bear videos on this website reveal the day-to-day lives of wild black bears around Ely, Minnesota. None of these videos use animal actors or bears baited into view. They are the result of decades of learning that close-up observations of wild bears are possible and then thousands of hours obtaining the information and videos shown here. Researchers routinely accompanied bears for 24 hours at a time through heat, cold, rain, swamps, and bugs. As the videos show, the bears mostly ignored cameras and observers and went about foraging, napping, playing, nursing their cubs, and battling over mates. The result is a better picture of how bears live than we have ever had.
A goal of the research is a better understanding of how bears live and what they need to survive in their increasingly urbanized environment. Another goal is to share that knowledge with the public. The research bears enable people to learn about bear life through TV programs, the internet, classrooms, and traveling exhibits that altogether reach over a hundred million people each year.
The bear featured in the majority of these videos is a wild research bear named June (short for Juneberry), born in 2001. She is a particularly calm, trusting bear and has accepted the presence of researchers since 2004. Researchers have followed June for up to 14 hours at a time as she traveled and foraged through her territory, and nursed and played with 3 sets of cubs. June's trusting personality has made possible many of these intimate scenes of family life.
The survival rate of trusting bears like June during hunting seasons is higher than the overall population. One reason is that the Minnesota DNR asks hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears. The North American Bear Center echoes that request. These dozen or so research bears are infinitely more valuable alive than dead, and they become more valuable each year as the background information on each bear builds.
The North American Bear Center thanks the dedicated researchers of the Wildlife Research Institute who provided these videos and thanks all hunters who passed up radio-collared bears in the interests of science and public education.
The video shows wild black bear cubs making blustery pounces followed by adults making the same displays. The cubs look cute and the adults look scary, but their displays are equally harmless.
Full charges by bears are rare. We dug back into the video archives to find footage shot in 1987 of a wild black bear that exhibited this behavior. For all her ferocious-looking bluff charges, Old 817 never touched anyone.
This video shows the marking behavior of a wild 5-year-old female black bear both before and after separating from her previous litter. Male marking behavior is shown as well.
Two mature wild black bear males battle over a female during mating season. A researcher just happened to be videoing one of the males as he back-rubbed a tree and straddled vegetation and caught the fight on tape.
Bear Cubs Playing
These 4 1/2 month old wild black bear cubs play with abandon in a forest opening while there mother forages nearby.
Tamaracks are very flexible trees and this wild black bear mother and cubs seems to know that. The researcher accompanying them came to expect this play behavior in tamarck bogs.
A 3-year-old female wild black bear enlarges a den on July 19 and pulls out a huge rock. She had her first litter of cubs in this same den the following winter.
Whiteheart Den Cam
Filmed in 2000. The first-ever footage of an undistrubed wild black bear in its den.
Blackheart Cub Probe
Filmed in 2000. First-ever footage of a wild black bear caring for her cubs in the den.
Caring for Cubs
A wild black bear mother cares for her three 5-week-old cubs. They are snug in a dug den as snow falls outside. The mother is 6-year-old June and this is her 2nd litter. The light-faced cub is a female (Lily) and the other 2 are males (Cal and Bud). This exceptionally trusting mother allowed us to place a video camera in her den to obtain these intimate scenes of bear family life.
Water in the Den
A 6-year-old wild black bear mother licks her cubs dry after moving them from their wet den during an early spring thaw.
A 6-year-old wild black bear nurses her 3 cubs. Nursing positions are established in the den. Each cub works their pair of nipples, alternately suckling from each. They make a humming noise as they begin to suckle but stop vocalizing about halfway through the 5 minute nursing bout.
A 6-year-old wild black bear female with cubs of the year feeding on a variety of vegetation in the early spring.
Eating Tent Caterpillars
A female wild black bear feasts on tent caterpillars during a periodic outbreak.
Eating Ant Pupae
A female wild black bear and her three young cubs dig at logs and stumps, and move rocks and stones to forage on ant pupae.
Eating Animal Matter
Wild black bears feeding on a variety of animal matter—from snowfleas and white-tailed deer fawns in the spring to bumblebees in the summer.
A female wild black bear and her cubs forage on a variety of berries—pulling down and sitting on bushes to feed.
A female wild black bear feeds on hazelnuts. Notice how she uses the back of her paw as a 'plate' to rest the hazelnuts on as she picks out pieces of nutmeat.
A brief glimpse of a rare white phase black bear, a Spirit Bear, along the coast of British Columbia.
Dog Chasing Bear
A 35 pound dog chasing a 200+ pound male bear out of the yard.
Hunting Gull Eggs
A mother grizzly and her cubs search for gull eggs on the steep bank of an island in Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Grizzlies catching, eating, and fighting over salmon in Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Taking the Videos
A researcher follows a 5-year-old researcher-habituated wild black bear that recently chased off her 2 yearlings and is cruising her territory and marking trees to attract a mate.
This video chronicles the development of a trusting relationship between 2 of the captive Bear Center bears. Gentle Ted is perhaps the largest black bear in the world—estimated to weigh 1000 pounds in the fall of 2006—and Lucky is an orphaned cub weighing about 50 pounds.
Professional bear trainer, Ruth LaBarge, shows how captive black bears and grizzly bears are trained to quietly open wide for those scary open-mouth photos and open-mouth roars in movies. Generally roars of other animals are dubbed in.