Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Berry Hungry Bear

(click on any photo to enlarge it)
Grizzly bear... When we hear this, most of us imagine a huge, fearsome predator roaming the land of, say, Alaska, killing and eating whatever it finds. Right? Sometimes. But often wrong.

Grizzlies, as well as their close cousins the Brown bears, are large and heavy animals who can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They have sharp teeth and sharp nails.  And in Alaska, they hibernate during the winter, which means that they have about three to four months in the year to eat and stack up on calories. Yes, bears are predators. But the Alaska bears' meat diet consists primarily of fish. In interior Alaska, where many rivers are filled with glacial dust and have no fish in them, the Grizzlies have evolved over the years from being carnivores (meet eating) to also dine on roots, leaves, flowers, and especially berries.  That's the reason why a Grizzly has a hump - these are huge shoulder muscles adapted for digging out roots..

Like most health conscious consumers, the Grizzly bears of Denali national park in Alaska LOVE organic berries. Berries are nutritious, with lots of vitamins and minerals, and even some calories! So it's common to see a Grizzly working its way through a large field of berries, eating everything  in sight - berries, leaves, flowers, you name it. An adult bear can work through half an acre of land per day, consuming as many calories as possible to use during the winter time. (Yes - it's called fat)

Can you feed a Grizzly? Sure. Here I am, getting ready to feed one with some blueberries, custom-hand picked especially for that precious bear:

Problem is, you may want to not do that, because the bear might eat not only the berries but also your hand. 
And arm. 
And your whole body.

So do the Grizzlies of Denali hunt for prey, as well? Well, it's hard for a Grizzly to chase a caribou or a moose. These animals are too fast and have enough endurance to escape from a bear.  Now don't get me wrong - a Grizzly can accelerate to 35mph (50kph) extremely fast, so you don't  want it to come after you. We all know the pretty chewed-on joke about the two hikers in bear country, where one asks the other "so what do we do if we see a Grizzly?" "We run" says the other guy. "Run?" Asks the first guy. "You can't outrun a Grizzly bear, can you?" "No, but I can outrun you!" says the  smart**s friend.

Ha ha. Funny, right? Especially if you're the faster guy.  

So the Grizzly will often let others do its work. For example, it will watch a pack of wolves kill a caribou, then come out and kick the hell out of them to dine on the dead animal. After all, as healthy as those berries are, nothing beats the thousands of calories in a good piece of caribou!

Except for fish, of-course.

Closer to the ocean, for example on the Kenai Peninsula or on Kodiak Island, where lots of rivers have Salmon in them during the summer, the Brown bears and Grizzlies have a diet comprised primarily of fish. After all, a single Salmon may contain up to 5,000 calories! And you don't even have to run 35mph to catch them.  All you have to do (if you're a bear, that is) is stand at the top of a waterfall and wait for the fish to jump up it on their way to the source of the river, with your mouth wide open...

And do this 12 hours a day, for several weeks, for a total of hundreds of first-grade Salmon..

Read more about the poor Salmon in my post The Brown Bears of Katmai


Peter Floyd said...

Wow nice post

Charles L. Brown said...

This true story has been told by my husband over and over again at many family functions and to friends. I wanted to share this with others who may enjoy a good bear hunt, so with his help I have put this hunt to words. I also realize that this is not the way to hunt a bear !

Clinton C. West said...

Wow, this is very nice picture to see. You are really a good photographer. Its looks awesome to me that the lots of rivers have Salmon in them during the summer and the Brown bears and Grizzlies have a diet comprised primarily of fish. I wish if I were that place. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

Anonymous said...

It is remarkable blog. I wanted to learn such type of the things that I have got from here at one platform. Thanks. fishing

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