Tag Archive: brown bears


During my field observations of the brown bears, I have had very little opportunity to observe parents and offspring interacting, with the exception of one instance, in my post on Momma & Baby Bears. However, as I mentioned recently, Explore.org, the group responsible for hosting the live cameras, also provides a handful of highlight videos from this year and past years, which allows viewers to see footage of different activities they are less likely to stumble upon via the live feeds. In order to learn more about the parent/offspring interaction, I utilized one of their highlight videos, entitled “402 Reunites with Her Missing Cub”. In this video, which is quite short (only slightly longer than 2 minutes), we see a relatively small bear cub by itself at the beginning of the video, which sits on the side of an embankment and seems to call out a few times. Shortly thereafter we see the momma bear arrive and the two are reunited.

More on mother bear and cub interaction to come…

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Today was an exciting day of bear watching! I actually had just turned on the bearcams to show my husband what I had been doing for my field observations, and when I pulled up the second camera at the Lower River, I was shocked to see a momma bear and two baby bears in the river! So a casual glimpse at the bearcams turned into a real field observation quite quickly! This was the first and only time I have been able to see a live shot of baby bears during my time watching the cameras at Katmai.

When I first saw the baby bears, they just looked like little bumps in the water behind the larger bear. Momma bear (I will refer to her as Bear M) is mostly blonde in color, with large ears and a smallish head. She doesn’t seem particularly large, perhaps because much of her fishing catches go to her offspring rather than feeding herself. The baby bears – I believe there were only two, though there may have been three – have fur that is darker in color than the momma bear, they are a dark brown color.

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Momma Bear M and two baby bears in the water at the Lower River.

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Thus far in my field observations I haven’t been able to observe personally any kind of mating behavior via the live webcams available at the Katmai National Park. However, Explore.org, the group responsible for hosting the live cameras, also provides a handful of highlight videos from this year and past years, which allows viewers to see footage of different activities they are less likely to stumble upon via the live feeds. I found one such video, a highlight video entitled “Bear 856 Pursues Female Bear 410 at Brooks Falls, Alaska”, which provided a small glimpse of some of the brown bear mating behavior . It’s a relatively short clip, less than two minutes in length, and shows the male bear 856 following female bear 410 as she walks around Brooks Falls. He walks into the frame from the right side, she makes her way toward the far bank, and begins to move more quickly downstream, almost running. He pursues her back upstream, around the small sandbar, back to the fall pool, up over the falls, toward the foreground and along the lip, before the clip ends. Their pace is never very fast, although at times she seems to scramble a bit and pick up her pace.

More on brown bear mating behavior to come…

After my first attempt at field observation, I was a bit disappointed, so I hoped for a better experience today when I logged on to the Brooks Falls Live webcam to see if I was able to observe any brown bear activity. Katmai National Park is 3 hours behind my home in New Orleans (GMT -5:00), which puts it at GMT -8:00, so I planned my watching times accordingly. To my delight, I saw several different bears fishing at Brooks Falls today, observed many successful catches, and, frankly, became completely mesmerized by the bearcams. If you haven’t already checked them out, I highly recommend it. Almost any time I logged on throughout the day, I was able to see some bears. I’m going to focus my notes on three bears that I specifically saw fishing today, between approximately 10:45am and 11:35am local time at the Park. Unless (and until) I can identify their sex, I’ll refer to them as Bear C, Bear D, and Bear E.

Bear C at the Jacuzzi

Bear C arrived from the near bank of the Falls, and walked up along the bank and then into the river close to the falls, taking up a position in the jacuzzi. (Bear E can be seen in the background of the first photo, at the Far Pool, while Bear C is entering the river from the left side of the screen.) This bear seems relatively dark for this time of year, since most bears are lighter in the spring through July and become darker in the fall (though admittedly this could be because it was already wet), with a somewhat short snout, dish-shaped head and wide-set ears. The bear sat somewhat low in the water, it seemed, and ducked its head several times into the water in tandem with grabbing motions with its paws to attempt to catch fish. It caught at least two fish while I was watching it, staying at the jacuzzi for approximately 12 minutes before walking downstream in the water, with the second fish still in its mouth. If Bear C is female, this  second fish could be being taken to one or more cubs waiting downstream.

Possible IDs: #402, #218, #856

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Bear C entering the river at Brooks Falls from the near bank.

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Bear C in “the jacuzzi” as salmon can be seen leaping up the falls.

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A female brown bear with three cubs.

The live webcams at Katmai National Park are down right now, and I haven’t been able to successfully conduct any life
field observation as a result, so instead I’m adding a brief post on one of the aspects of sexual selection, mating, and raising offspring in brown bears: Sexually Selected Infanticide (SSI). It’s one of the most interesting, and, from a human emotional point of view, can be somewhat sad and shocking aspects of bear behavior, and one that is sometimes difficult to understand, yet an important one.

The Katmai National Park website addresses the issue of infanticide in their brown bear FAQs, noting that the practice is not completely understood, that there may be many reasons for the practice, and reminding readers that bear behavior does not necessarily conform to human moral and ethical boundaries. Here is an excerpt from their coverage of the topic:

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There have been some studies on this topic, most notably and recently by the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project and Telemark University College, Norway. Most of the studies focus on the killing of bear cubs by adult males as sexually selected infanticide, rather than attributing the killings to other reasons. Here I will provide an overview of mating strategies of the brown bears, as well as the strategies and counterstrategies involved in SSI.

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