During my first stay at the Hallo Bay Bear Camp (Katmai National Park, Alaska), I was given a unique opportunity to witness quite a bear fight between 2 brown bear (Ursus arctos) families. To set the stage, a brown bear sow was fishing in the creek, with her 2 3-year old cubs (yes, 3-year olds … this does not happen often, but was quite interesting to see!). It was sometimes quite difficult to differentiate between the mom and the 2 juveniles, but our guides knew them very well and were a big help to us! Here is that mom (foreground) with one of her juveniles:
The second brown bear family was a sow with her 2 spring cubs. As the sow with the older juveniles fished the creek, the second mom sat her 2 cubs on the bank and wandered into the creek. Within a few minutes, she encroached on the first sow’s territory and took a defensive posture, illiciting a response from the other mom (the mom of the 2 spring cubs has a darker coat and has her back to us):
As the fight escalates, the sow’s 2 (3-year old) juveniles rush to mom’s aid:
Meanwhile, I looked around to see what the 2 spring cubs were doing. All the splashing and growling had them focused on the action in front of us:
In this next image, you can see the 2 sows “debating”, while the two 3-year olds rush in from the left and the right, to help mom:
Then, things began to really heat up:
Three-on-one doesn’t really sound fair, does it? Well, it didn’t take long to show how lopsided the fight was! Note the young bear on the right is in the process of biting the hind quarters of the intruding sow (this image is not very good … very blurry. Don’t know if the heavy action caused the softness, or if my heart was just beating too fast as I tried to capture the action!):
In this next image, you can see the bite to the hind quarter of the intruding sow:
And the growling and chaos only got louder … !
… causing the spring cubs to again direct full attention on mom:
At that point, I turned back around and the fight was essentially done. Good thing cause my camera’s “write light” was glowing red hot and the buffer was full! The spring cubs’ mom limped over to the cubs and they wandered away from the creek and strolled over to the beach:
As usual, the little ones were back playing! And yes, that is a feather in the little one’s mouth!
It was quite a treat to see such behavior with the brown bears. But this action was a bit surprising … why did the sow insist on trying to run off another sow, especially since she had two 3-year olds with her? We’ll never know. But it certainly was not a smart thing for the sow to do. If she would have been seriously hurt, her 2 spring cubs would have been in serious trouble … no way they would have survived without mom by their side!