Carefully look at the bear captured in these two photos. Would you believe it is the same bear?
Many people immediately recognize the photos of grizzly bears catching salmon leaping mid-air as the fish make their way to spawn up river. Most of these photos are taken in July at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska. But what those famous photos taken in July fail to convey is the impact all that salmon eating can have on an individual bear’s appearance over that season. These animals undergo a substantial transformation of their body’s form factor.
The top and bottom photos contain the same bear, at two different times of the year, but separated by only 7 weeks time. Allow me to introduce you to Bear 410, an old sow at 26 years old, and a top fisher at Brooks Falls. Her nickname is “Four-Ton”, and she was one of the only bears in 2014 that I saw successfully fishing the lip, the premier spot atop the falls. In fact, while I was observing in July, none of the larger male bears were able to forcefully displace her from this spot. And she was far more proficient at catching salmon than the alpha male(s) below the falls in the jacuzzi.
These photos highlight a bear’s innate ability to eat …and gain a lot of mass in a short amount of time. I hope to see Bear 410 back in Katmai this July for what will be her 27th year in the Brooks River…