Archive for the Male grizzlies Category
He’s walking through the tall grass that borders the beach. The bears don’t eat this grass, but it does make for a good day bed or cozy place to hide. One day walking back to camp I noticed a pair of brown fuzzy teddy bear ears peeking over the tall beach grass. A few moments later, a set of liquid brown eyes popped above the grass to peek at me. He quickly popped back down deciding to stay hidden. I was always really careful when walking through the tall grass to avoid surprising a hidden bear.
You can really see how tall he is when he stoops down to bite on sedge grass. Although certainly not the largest male grizzly bear I’ve seen, he was one of the largest on the Katmai Coast during one of our camping trips. I always bolted to sit near him if I saw “Hopper”, the much smaller bear who had bluff charged us. One afternoon Charlie was taking a nap, surrounded by eight or nine grazing female bears. When he woke up, and started to walk, every single bear scattered and ran away quickly. In this photo, he is actually grazing near several females who were comfortable in his presence.
Here’s a photo of “Hopper” the problem male we encountered one summer. He really didn’t like people, and made his sentiments quite clear by hopping at us, or bluff charging us a few times. All that was needed to get him to back off was clapping our hands, and shouting “no” while stepping towards him. As soon as we stepped towards him – a sign of dominance – he relaxed and stopped bothering us.
He was the only bear that has ever bluff charged us, and it is a good reminder to always carry safety equipment when out with grizzly bears. Bears are all individuals, with the potential to harm a human. Although most grizzlies in Katmai ignore humans, you must carry protection in case you encounter a rare individual who does not like humans. We always carry hand held marine flares to scare off a bear. We always camp behind an electric fence, and I also pack bear spray, and bear bangers which is a device to make a really loud noise. Flares are the best choice however.
Grizzly Bears line up on top of Brooks Falls to fish for sockeye salmon. At the height of the sockeye salmon run in July, the falls is packed with fishing bears. Grizzly bears choose different spots on the falls – these bears are at the top waiting to catch a salmon leaping up the falls (you can just make out a salmon in the far right of this photo). Other bears will be below the falls to catch fish before they make the big leap.
It is a total myth that the biggest males dominate the top of Brooks Falls. I actually just saw a commercial on NatGeo Wild for a grizzly show called “King” and they of course say this King bear controls the best fishing spot at Brooks. This is a total lie- the bears actually line up as shown in this photo. When a bear catches a fish, she/he would usually leave the top of the falls to eat the fish on the sidelines. When a bear with a salmon leaves, another bear files in and waits to catch a fish. The grizzly bears are really quite organized, and share the fishing spots by cycling in and out. Of course, this isn’t a totally fixed rule. Some bears might grumble, growl and fight to maintain “their” spot for a while. But the two summers I spent in Brooks I rarely saw any loud fights on the actual falls.
It is also a myth that the large males are the best fishermen. The females, with cubs waiting on the sidelines, usually were much quicker and efficient at getting a salmon when it was their turn on the falls.
I also like this photo because it shows the drastic color differences between a line up of grizzly bears.