Archive for the Grizzly Bear Social Behavior Category
Adult grizzly bears play quite frequently, wrestling and tumbling just for the fun of it.
A grizzly bear trail cutting through sedge grass meadows. Notice how the trail is carved with actual footprints because the bears step in each others footprints. Scent glands in their feet leave messages for the next bear to pass by.
Katmai National Park bear viewing guide and naturalist Brad Josephs compiled this great footage of grizzly bears fighting. There are few things as thrilling as hearing in person the roaring vocalizations of two grizzlies in a fight! Often grizzly bears will fight over salmon, and some grizzlies steal other bears hard caught fish as their own “fishing” strategy.
Note that in most commercial videos/films of grizzly bears their aggression is overblown. Notice in this video how most grizzly bear fights end before serious injuries occur. More often than not, bears posture and vocalize instead of coming to serious blows. Also notice the clicking of cameras going off during the video – groups of tourists led by Josephs are safely watching the grizzly bear fights on the ground. The grizzlies are clearly ignoring the group of humans sitting nearby.
The grizzly bear we named Rosie mated one morning with a large male bear. We often marvel at how a much smaller female grizzly bear manages to support the weight of a huge male bear on her back during mating.
After mating the two bears went right back to grazing on high protein sedge grass.
This mother grizzly bear approached us, sat down, dug a small day bed in the rocks, and started nursing. Since she lives in Katmai National Park, where hunting is prohibited, she has learned to trust humans. Mother bears will defend their cubs aggressively if needed but, like most bear conflicts, she will avoid physical contact if possible. Most bears growl and posture at one another, but actual physical violence is rare. Standing on their hind legs is also rare as a defensive posture in grizzly bears. Mother bears are much more likely to stand on all fours between their cubs and a potential threat. They may also bluff charge a potentially threatening bear, once again being on all fours. Bears usually stand on hind legs to see over tall grass, or to get a better sniff of a scent that blew in. They also stand on hind legs to look for salmon in the water. Standing on their hind legs as an aggressive action is mostly seen in the movies, where grizzlies are made to look much more imposing and aggressive than they actually are in real life. My husband wrote a great article on this topic called Are Grizzlies Dangerous?
We named these two adult, male bears “The Georges” because they looked identical to one another. I wondered if they were brothers, due to such similar body sizes and facial features. They were never apart, and seemed to be wrestling and playing all day long, every day. They were truly the most playful bears I’ve met, and often raced around the meadows playing tag, and tumbling in the grass.