Grizzly bear charging


Hey Folks,

They say 3 is a lucky number – so here’s my third grizzly bear photo in a row. This was one of the prettiest grizzly bears I’ve seen, a really light blond color, with darker bands around the lower legs and face – simply a beautiful animal. I spent a lot of time shooting this bear, and got a number of runs like this, the bear coming directly at me, great light, nice background – what’s there to not like?

So what exactly is going on here? The bear is running after a salmon in the water ahead of the bear. The alert ‘ears up’ of the bear indicate it’s focused on something, rather than this being a predatory ‘charge’. A grizzly bear charging a person will almost always have its ears laid back, flat against its head, indicating an aggressive/defensive angry animal. So, mum, don’t worry, this isn’t really a grizzly bear charging at me; the bear is chasing a fish, which happens to be seeking refuge behind me. 🙂

It’s actually really interesting to watch bears fish the rivers and streams for salmon. Bears are such individuals, like humans, and behaviors are almost entirely learned; so they often vary greatly from one bear to another. Some bears adapt a mellower ‘wait and see’ approach, standing for hours on end without taking so much as a step, waiting for a fish to meander within leaping range. Some bears, especially younger ones, will do the above ‘charge and chase’ strategy. Others actually walk the rivers snorkeling, heads under the water, only their ears above the surface, like radar (look, a palindrome!), while some others will actually do a short ‘stalk’ approaching closely, quietly, stealthily, catlike, before a pounce. One bear, people used to call ‘Diver’, would completely submerge beneath the surface, swim around underwater and come up with salmon.

It’s a blast watching them, and in some places, like Katmai National Park, the bear populations are so dense and concentrated, you really get to see a myriad different behaviors, etc. Each bear does his/her own thing. I could watch them for hours, it’s so cool. And they eat, eat, and eat. This stage of year they are said to go into what’s called ‘hyperphagia’ – well, that’s what we call it, I’m not sure the bears call it that. It’s basically an increased appetite, an over-eating phase, fattening up before hibernation. They’re pretty hard core about it .. one 5 pound salmon contains around 4500 calories, the equivalent of 9 cheeseburgers. An adult brown bear (grizzly bears, brown bears, same thing – Ursus arctos) can eat, on average, 90 pounds of salmon a day. I’ll help you out with this mathematical problem – that equates to 162 cheeseburgers a day. Ever see the movie ‘Supersize Me’? Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days … but he couldn’t even come CLOSE to 162 cheeseburgers a day. That’s insane.

Just to illustrate how much better bears are then us at this kind of thing, Morgan Spurlock ate about 4500-5000 calories a day (one salmon for the bears) – he put on nearly 25 pounds in 30 days, and it took him over a year to lose the weight afterward. Bears lose it in a few short months sleeping inside a cave, arising in spring all sleek and trim. Now tell me that ain’t just too cool!



PS – edited the typo in the last paragraph thanks to the keen eye of Mr May. Thank you Peter.

9 thoughts on “Grizzly bear charging

  1. Peter May

    Hey Carl

    Amazing shot. The sensations you must have felt while taking it are completely beyond my ken.

    On the editorial side, don’t you mean that Spurlock ate 4500-5000 calories/day? 450-500 a day is a starvation diet.

  2. Carl D Post author

    Hey Folks,

    @ Peter; thanks for dropping by. Pretty amazing experiences – I did retreat one time a sow “Charged”, because I wasn’t sure what she was up to .. turns out she had salmon, not Carl, on her mind, fortunately for me .. missed a cool photo opp though. 🙂 Thanks for noting the typo – fixed. Thanks.

    Thanks everyone.



  3. Mark

    I have to say the different behaviors were my favorite part also. Some would slap, some would jump and pounce, and some played submarine for salmon. Even saw differences in the cubs – where of a pair – one was a go-getter, and the other just wasn’t getting the hang of it and always running to mom for the handout.

    Beautiful light in this Carl – probably helped with getting that shutter speed up eh. Never saw a blondie up there, but heard there was at least one around near Hallo Bay.

  4. Carl D Post author

    Hey Mark,

    It’s such a cool trip, eh? I think Katmai is one of the world’s greatest wonders. And yeah, I had some nice light from time to time, which really helped. And the D300s is better than my D2x woulda been for high ISOs, so that helped too – and i think its AF is better, as well. I’ll post another shot of this blondie later, in softer light, where you can really see how light its color is.

    Hey Dave – Dogs are cool, but bears rule!



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