The first year of life is tough on grizzly bear cubs. Half of all cubs die in their first year of life. The summer of 2008 we witnessed a huge boom in cub births. We spotted over 24 first year cubs in one bay in Katmai National Park. Sadly, we spotted no second year cubs in the same bay the following summer. Mother bears may have relocated to other areas with their cubs, but we assumed many of the cubs must have died.
Archive for January, 2011
Two grizzly bear cubs in their very first summer relax near a group of bear viewing tourists. The cub on the left is a female, the one on the right a male. The white chevron around a bear cub’s neck is pretty common, and also aids in identification. For example, the boy bear has a much more pronounced white chevron than his sister. Grizzly bears lose the white chevron when they get older.
This grizzly bear female is delicately prying open a clam using her nails. Grizzly bears have different techniques for opening clam shells. Some crush the entire clam in their mouths, then spit out the shells (which reminds me of how humans eat sunflower seeds with the shell on). Other bears eat the whole clam shell. Others will twist apart the top shell from the bottom shell using the palm of their front paw.
Grizzly bear mothers most often nurse their cubs lying down on their backs. A grizzly bear mother will usually keep her head lifted to scan the scene for any potential dangers. I took this photo sitting nearby in the grass. The grizzly bear mother was perfectly comfortable with us nearby since she has learned that humans do not hunt grizzlies in this area (Katmai National Park where hunting is prohibited). In fact many grizzly bear mothers in Katmai feel more comfortable close to humans. They have learned that some grizzly bear males (who could harm cubs) will be hesitant to approach human bear viewers. This is an example of grizzly bears’ sophisticated social intelligence.
This very old grizzly bear had a snaggle tooth, most likely the result of a fight that busted his jaw. I’ve witnessed at least two other old male grizzlies with clear signs of injury to their jaws that resulted in a tooth sticking outside of their mouths. You can also see considerable scarring around this bear’s neck.
Despite his age, this grizzly bear was fishing vigorously for salmon at the mouth of a river.