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Hidden World of Brown/Grizzly Bears

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1.  Patty cake

After a day of grazing on plants on this saltwater sedge flat, this grizzly bear mother took an hour to play with her cub at dusk.

Photo: June 27, 1998. Alaska.

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2.  Spending quality time

Certainly bears feel fear, but do they feel love, happiness, jealousy, anger, hope, humor, and playfulness? Is it closer to the truth to deny that bears have these emotions or to believe that they do?

Photo: June 27, 1998. Alaska.

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3.  Grizzly tracks

“Seeing animal tracks is sometimes more powerful than seeing the animals themselves” Cody Dwire 9/22/2000. “It is an honor to walk where such magnificent animals have gone before” Lee Williams 10/3/2000.

Photo: August 27, 1996. Alaska.

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4.  Grizzly devil

The rising sun gives this grizzly a devilish look. But there is a big difference between the demonized bears of our folklore and the bears of reality. After spending hundreds of hours close to coastal grizzlies like this one, Lynn Rogers says, “I’ve never felt the least bit threatened by them. I'm more worried that I might scare THEM!”

Photo: August 2, 1997. Alaska.

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5.  Retreating

Despite their reputation, grizzly bears are almost always timid and retreating.

Photo: June 22, 1999. Alaska.

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6.  A bear hug

Where food is abundant, bears buddy up to wrestle and play, sometimes for days. Mating pairs also play. Mating season for black and grizzly bears is late spring to early summer. Polar bears mate in late March to late May.

Photo: July 2, 1999. Alaska.

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7.  Saltwater Sedge Flat

Coastal sedge flats are rich feeding areas for coastal grizzlies in Alaska in late spring and summer.

Photo: June 23, 1999. Alaska.

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8.  Bear buddies

Play fighting looks like real fighting because the motions can be quick, but it is done silently and the bites are harmless. By 1½ years of age, bears learn to control the power of their bites.

Photo: July 2, 1999. Alaska.

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9.  Grizzly gathering place

Up to 33 grizzlies can be seen at once on this sedge flat where bears have foraged for thousands of years. Seven are visible here, counting five across the river.

Photo: June 23, 1999. Alaska.

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10.  The Protector

Grizzly cubs run to their mothers for protection, while black bear cubs run for trees. Attacks by defensive mothers account for 70 percent of human deaths from grizzly bears, but mother black bears are not known to have killed anyone in defense of cubs. The idea that black bear mothers are likely to attack is one of the biggest misconceptions about black bears.

Photo: July 1, 1999. Alaska.

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11.  Heir to her knowledge

Bears may be the most intelligent of the North American mammals according to their brain structure, the experience of animal trainers, and tests at the Psychology Department at the University of Tennessee. Grizzly bear mothers spend 1½ to 3½ years showing their cubs where and how to obtain food. The cubs’ ability to form mental maps and remember locations may exceed human ability.

Photo: June 26, 1998. Alaska.

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12.  Mature male coastal grizzly bear

At low tide, coastal grizzlies search ocean bays for salmon that are gathering to swim up streams to spawn.

Photo: July 1, 1997. Alaska.

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13.  Beginning a chase

A half-ton coastal grizzly bear leaps from the water at the mouth of a stream to chase a salmon that swirled in the shallows. When hunting salmon, bears look for swirls, repeatedly smell the water, and run toward splashing sounds.

Photo: July 1, 1997. Alaska.

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14.  A big catch

Coastal grizzlies are larger than interior grizzlies partly because of salmon that spawn in coastal streams. This ripe female chum salmon is streaming a trail of red eggs.

Photo: August 30, 1996. Alaska.

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15.  Chasing a salmon

With his eyes fixed on a salmon, this running grizzly demonstrates speed and power.

Photo: July 1, 1997. Alaska.

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16.  Protecting a food cache

Grizzly bears sometimes attack to protect cubs or food caches. However, this mild-mannered coastal grizzly seemed to ignore people as he ate 6 chum salmon, buried a 7th weighing about 10 pounds, and rested on the cached fish.

Photo: August 3, 1997. Alaska.

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17.  Alaska beauty

Grizzly bears see some of the finest scenery in the world.

Photo: June 22, 1998. Alaska.

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18.  Drinking from a glacial stream

This 2½-year-old cub left her mother to drink from a glacial stream.

Photo: June 24, 1999. Alaska.

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19.  Digging clams

When tides are lower than usual, grizzlies gather to dig clams from the exposed ocean floor. Much of the activity pattern of coastal grizzlies is dictated by ocean tides.

Photo: July 1, 1999. Alaska.

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20.  Working for clams

The grizzly's strong forelegs and large claws help them dig faster than the razor clams and butter clams can retreat--sometimes to depths of over two feet under the mud.

Photo: July 2,1999. Alaska.

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21.  Delicate power

This mature grizzly bear female is delicately using one or two claws to open the clam she dug.

Photo: July 1, 1999. Alaska.

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22.  Hurry, Mom, I’m hungry

Anxious to nurse, a 2½-year-old grizzly cub pulls its mother down by the ear.

Photo: July 1, 1999. Alaska.

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23.  A mountain of a bear

Today, the largest brown/grizzly bears are no longer found on Kodiak Island where many have been killed. They are on the protected mainland in Katmai National Park, which is part of the largest grizzly protection area in the world.

Photo: June 23, 1998. Alaska.