Nature Calls: Bears

In my continued revamp of the blog, today’s post will be part of a monthly series highlighting wildlife and nature. I hope you find it fun and informative. I’ll be sharing images from some amazing nature photographers. My words are here only to compliment their photos!

This month we’re going to the bears. Why bears? Bears have such a varied life–much more than I would have anticipated. They are part of a delicate ecosystem that needs them. They are considered “keystone” predators—meaning their survival in their natural habitat is critical for the entire biological community, including humans. Here is a peek into the secret lives of bears.

The photos below are shared with the permission of Scott Randall. I think you’ll agree his images present a captivating look at these amazing bears. He took these photos while on trips to Alaska.

Bear Cub Surprise

Scott says this photo was taken in Silver Salmon Creek, Alaska. Mama bear was nearby. Bears weigh about one pound at birth and stay with their mothers for 2-3 years.
©Scott Randall. Used with permission

 

1.Brown, black, and grizzly. (This sounds like a great name for a band!) No matter what we call the bears, they can come in a variety of colors. So, a black bear can be brown in color (or cinnamon, blond, even white).

  • Brown and grizzly. All grizzly bears are brown bears, but not all brown bears are grizzly bears. Grizzly is a subspecies of brown bears.
  • Brown and black. One quick way to distinguish between a brown bear and black bear is in profile. Brown bears have a camel-like hump between their shoulder blades while black bears do not.
  • Brown bears are the most common, but 95 percent of the population lives in Alaska. If you’re in the lower 48 and you encounter a bear, you’re probably eye-to-claw with a black bear.
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Notice the hump between the shoulder blades. That’s a good sign these are brown bears, even though they are nearly blond in color.
©Scott Randall. Used with permission

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Eye on the salmon prize.
©Scott Randall. Used with permission

 

2. Sleep, perchance to dream. Bears can lose about 40 percent of their body weight while hibernating, which is why they have to bulk up in the summer. A bear can consume 90 pounds (40 kg) of food per day to prepare for the long sleep.

  • While hibernating, a bear’s heart rate slows to eight beats per minute.
  • Anyone who has seen a bear eating Snickers bars from a campsite knows that they are omnivores. Depending on their habitat, they will eat grasses, berries, nuts, fruits, honey, and fish. In the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, salmon is a favorite. One of my bucket list trips: bear watching at Katmai National ParkThe short clip below (narrated by David Attenborough) shows grizzly (brown) bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls, Katmai. I feel bad for the salmon, but the bears are impressive. 

3. Home on the range. Bears cover a lot of ground. Males stake out a territory of 200-500 square miles (500-1,300 square km) while females maintain a slightly smaller area.

  • One way they mark their turf is by rubbing their scent along trees, but areas overlap and they tend not to enforce boundaries. Otherwise, bears are mostly solitary, coming together to mate or fish when salmon are running.
Bear Claws

What big claws you have! Brown/grizzly bear claws are 2-4 inches long. In other words, their claws are the length of your fingers. Black bear claws are only 1-2 inches long. I wonder how that distinction evolved. Differences in diet, I’m guessing.
©Scott Randall. Used with permission

 

Bears Digging

Bears also enjoy clams. With claws like that, they have no problem opening the shells. 
©Scott Randall. Used with permission

An extra-special thank you to Scott Randall for allowing me to share his photos! Please visit his photo blog for more amazing shots like these.

 

For more information on bears:

Western Wildlife: Bear Outreach

PBS Nature

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

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24 comments

  1. Sharing the forest with these animals requires some preparation and common sense. As a backpacker/hiker, the space between becomes very important. I have not ventured into the western mountains but have had several encounters with black bears in the east. Barring foolish incursion betwixt a mamma and a cub, mutual fear and desire for immediate separation is the rule. Peanut butter or jelly doughnuts provide the exception to that rule though. Great photos.

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    1. Advocating common sense is the right thing to do in these encounters. I have seen a number of clips from park rangers at Yellowstone showing people pursuing bears to get a “selfie.” This would be the “what not to do” variety.
      It sounds like you have some personal experience keeping bears at a safe distance while hiking.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, so far they (eastern black bears) have proven to be eager to put distance between us. Each year some hiker who fails to hang their food high up in a tree at night and sneaks a snickers into the tent, finds the two AM wake up call to be “bear”ing teeth and claws.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great photos, Jackie and a wonderful video. I like this nature series! I’ve learned so much about the bears from your post….even though I suspect my husband watches EVERY Alaskan reality TV series. Have a great weekend too. 🙂

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    1. I love the video clip of the bears hanging out at the falls, just watching and waiting. The plight of the salmon is also very interesting. They have to run so many gauntlets — bears, swimming upstream for hundreds of miles, waterfalls, etc. Amazing any are able to survive to reproduce.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We saw brown bears in Denali National Park and I was glad they were far away! It was kind of chilling to see a group of hikers and then a bear around the corner. One of the rangers said bears can smell us 20 miles away.
    Awesome photos, by the way.

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  4. What beautiful creatures and fantastic photographs. We have black bears that visit our back yard. I’m thankful for my devil dog who always warns us they are near. Such powerful creatures– I love (although nervously) scoping them out. ( not crazy about the ENORMOUS droppings they leave)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Please tell me you’ve seen the Grizzly Man documentary? Crazy! I like the new avenue you’re taking with your blog. It’s inspired me to consider branching off into new categories too, possible food. Thoughts are simmering! (Note: Pun very much intended.)

    Liked by 1 person

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