Each year in the backcountry of Alaska, salmon runs in Katmai National Park and Preserve draw many brown bears into close proximity...

Pirating

Alaska, USA

Each year in the backcountry of Alaska, salmon runs in Katmai National Park and Preserve draw many brown bears into close proximity. Several fishing techniques have been documented and have been termed: the dash-and-grab, the sit-and-wait, the stand-and-wait, diving, snorkeling, and the technique seen here called pirating.

Bears that pirate a catch have learned to steal fish directly from other bears. If a pirating bear is larger, the smaller bear will most often abandon its catch. Therefore, it is not unusual for smaller bears to move away with their catch to eat it, where they can avoid the hungry advances of another bear.

If the bears are well-matched, a conflict may erupt. Dominance is asserted by directly facing the adversary, accompanied by neck stretching, muzzle twisting and ears rotated toward the rear. Mouths are open showing off their canines, and the upper and lower lips hang loosely. Vocalizations can include a deep rumbling growl, evidenced here by the salmon eggs extruded from the mouth of the bear on the right. During confrontations, bears may use their paws to strike their opponents in the chest or shoulders, but in this case, the bear on the left used a stealthy move of his paw to reach in and steal the prize.

Photo © copyright by Dr. Edward Mikol.

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