Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grizzly Bears at Brooks Falls

It was very interesting and sometimes entertaining observing the behaviour of the grizzly bears at Brooks Falls.  Some bears seemed to be frequently catching salmon either swimming in the river or jumping at the falls while other bears seemed less fortunate.  And there seemed to be an established pecking order among the bears who were all trying to catch enough fish to satisfy themselves and fatten up prior to winter.   When one bear caught a fish, there was another particular bear that would chase after him and try to intimidate him into giving up the fish.  It seemed that this "bully bear" would almost always succeed in getting the fish away from the bear who had actually caught it.  This bear may have been too big and fat to be catching his own fish, but he got plenty to eat nonetheless by harassing all the other bears.
The tougher bears took the best fishing locations at the top of the falls, and were willing to fight other bears to keep their position.  There were usually lots of bears in the water in front of us.   One evening there were 19 bears there at the same time.

Soon we found ourselves giving the various bears nicknames based on their behaviour.  We were particularly entertained by a bear that I labelled 'beggar bear', who would frequently approach a bear that had just caught a fish.  But unlike the 'bully bear', beggar bear would approach within a foot or two and put his paws and head on the surface of the water, and gaze at the bear eating the fish, hoping the other bear would share some of the catch.  This bear was never aggressive and I never saw him try to steal the fish. This approach apparently worked because we often observed bears saving a small portion of their catch for him.

Another bear seemed to always stay in the swirling waters and bubbles just below the falls, and we appropriately named him "jacuzzi bear".

I tried to get a photo of a bear catching a fish, just before he closed his jaws on it. but I never exactly manged to get the shot I had in mind.  It was about 2 weeks past the peak of the salmon run, and fish were not jumping very often.  

As the bears would devour the fish, several gulls were always wading just a couple feet away, waiting for the scraps.  On one occasion, a gull went up and pecked away a piece of a fish while a bear was eating it.  That was one brave gull. 

Visiting Brooks Falls was nothing short of amazing.  I had never been here before, and I wouldn't hesitate to return if given the opportunity.


  1. Well I guess I would return too if I had the opportunity (well I never went there ;-) ), but this is a spectacular place. Id on't even imagine the feelings you can get by just observing these bears eating salmon! It is probably very impressive and this is at least my feeling by reading your post. I'm just stunned by the story and the quality of the picture. Well done Tim.

  2. It is nice to be informed here that the bears were devouring the salmon they caught as opposed to merely eating the roe as I'm aware they will do at times.

  3. Awesome photos, especially the last one is really special I think.
    I really hope I'll be so fortunate some day to be able to witness bears fishing for salmon...

  4. imi plac foarte mult fotografiile tale,sint absolut minunate,felecitari

  5. Great post Tim! I really enjoyed your photos and Ken's as well. Both of you did an incredible job capturing the action!

  6. Excellent captures! I do feel sorry for the fish though.

  7. Holy moly...yowsers...and any other cool exclamative--these photos are stellar. What an experience...

  8. Amazing photography great captures.

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