Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Bear Fighting - McNeil River Sanctuary, Alaska

Continued from a previous post, I have more bear images from the McNeil River Sanctuary in Alaska! I observed and photographed a large numbers of brown bears bears catching salmon in the Alaskan wilderness in July of 2017.

When fish is abundant at McNeil River, bears fish in close proximity, literally shoulder to shoulder. Those bears mostly ignore each other and focus primarily on catching and eating fish. However, fights do break out . . . possibly over a dispute of prime fishing spots or maybe just over personal space.

At the start of the fight, one bear slightly opens its mouth and starts roaring prompting a response roar… the two bears intensely stare at each other and continue the roaring for a few moments… 

One of them advances a little, most likely the other bear gives up and moves away without any actual physical contact. When a fight breaks out they are usually brief. They don’t want to waste a time and energy fighting over catching and eating fish. They just quickly go back to fishing as if nothing happened. During only a few weeks of the salmon season, they need to put on as much weight as possible for a long winter hibernation.

Meanwhile, at the calmer side of the river, these two young bears are play fighting. Starting with a playful roar then casually bite at each other.

Then the biting escalates to wrestling!

Unlike serious fights, the “play fight” lasts for several minutes…

These two bears repeated a series of play fights all afternoon. Play fighting is important to subadult bears to build their fighting skills and experience to be a future dominant bear or to protect their future young.

This subadult bear flees from a larger male.

Observing the large number of bears, I noticed many of the larger mature bears have plenty of scars on their bodies from previous fights. To grow into a large dominant bear the young bears must endure many years of survival.

I will post more bear images on the next blog… Please check back in a few weeks!