When Bears Behave like Bears: One Thousand Pounds of Entertainment… Part 3

Kodiak Bear cooling off on the Frazer River.

There is nothing like a cool dip in the water on a hot summer day. This large Kodiak Bear plopped down in the Frazer River, obviously enjoying herself. Soon she had rolled over on her back. See below.

As I have noted before, Kodiak Bears are big animals with large teeth and sharp claws. They can be daunting, even scary. And they always deserve respect. When I found one fishing the same small stream we were fishing on the Chiniak Peninsula last week, I beat a hasty retreat, slowly. Running away would have suggested I was dinner, or at least something to play with. And bears play rough.

Bears attack people but these encounters are rare considering the number of people and bear encounters each year. On Kodiak Island there are some 14,000 people and around 3500 bears. Odds are if you spend any time at all outdoors, you will meet up with one of these magnificent creatures.

Over a thousand people per year make the trek out to the Kodiak Island’s best bear viewing spot, the Frazer River. As far as I know, no one has been eaten. A friend of mine who taught wilderness survival skills to the military used to tell his students if bears wanted to eat people, they would move in to town where there are a lot more people to eat. Mainly bears like to avoid people. We are scarier than they are.

The bears of Frazer River put on a great fish catching demonstration and the moms and cubs had a serious “ah” factor. But they also cooled off in the water, sat and watched the world go by, established who was boss, and enjoyed a good scratch. I found some of their behavior quite humorous.

Kodiak Bear cools off in the Frazer River.

Mom lays down on her back.

Kodiak Bear on the Frazer River Fish Pass.

I wasn’t about to tell this guy he had to stay off the Fish Pass. Check out the claws! 

I also enjoyed this Kodiak Bear sitting in the grass and watching the action in the river.

I also enjoyed this Kodiak Bear sitting in the grass and watching the action in the river.

Kodiak bears tend to be solitary animals but do come together when abundant food is available.

Kodiak bears tend to be solitary animals but do come together when abundant food is available. These two seem to be pretending that the other bear is not present. Out of sight, out of mind.

While the Kodiak Bears are not territorial, arguments may ensue in close conditions. We could here the growling.

It didn’t work. We could hear the growling. We were glad that we weren’t the ones being growled at.

Kodiak Bear shows submission

Kodiak Bears have developed a number of postures and sounds to avoid conflict. The bear on the left has lowered his head in submission.

We also watched the mother bear drive off a large male to protect her cubs.

We also watched the mother bear drive off a large male to protect her cubs. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Kodiak Bear salutes... or possibly scratches an itch.

Is this “I pledge allegiance,” or “Aw that feels good?” I’ll go with scratching an itch.

Lone kodiak Bear standing in the Frazer River on Kodiak Island.

In the last shot of our bear viewing trip, a lone Kodiak Bear fishes in the Frazer River.

NEXT BLOG: Flying over Kodiak Island in a float plane.

5 comments on “When Bears Behave like Bears: One Thousand Pounds of Entertainment… Part 3

  1. So many great pictures of your trip. Their is something special about bears, making these pictures my favorite. Will have to check out Alaska one day.

    • I’ve been fortunate in my Alaska adventures to get to where the bears are, such as Katmai and Kodiak. But I have also run into bears in several other locations like the Kenai Peninsula and Denali National Park. There is not doubt that they are magnificent animals. –Curt

  2. You seem to imply that the males attacking the cubs is normal behavior. I know that’s true with some species, but I wasn’t aware it was part of life among the bears. I’d want to avoid those claws, for sure.

    They must be at the top of the food chain there – or close. What happens to old bears? Do they just wander off and die? Are they ever found? A friend and I were talking about the fact that we’ve never found a dead bird, other than ones that have sustained death by car, etc. It’s easy enough to imagine ants and other scavengers picking the carcass clean – and that certainly happens with deer, now that I think about it. But those bears are BIG!

    Again, my favorite photo is of the lone bear, fishing.

    • The male bears attacking the young is indeed common. They regard young male cubs as future competition.

      It’s unusual to find dead animals in the woods unless you smell them and go looking. Nature is fast when it comes to cleaning up. A dead bear would provide a veritable feast.

      I really liked the lone bear fishing as well. It captured, for me, the wildness of the scene. –Curt

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