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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 theĀ 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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