Coastal Brown Bears — Leaving a Calling Card

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June is breeding season for Coastal Brown Bears at Lake Clark National Park. Much of the behavior that we observed related to mating activity.

Sunset at the park wasn’t until after 11 p.m. while we were there and evenings after dinner were ideal for photography. On our first evening at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge we encountered an enormous male Coastal Brown Bear, relaxing in a grassy meadow, very close to the lodge’s guest cabins.

Of the bears that we encountered he was easily the largest. As we watched he rose from the grass and strolled at a leisurely pace in the direction of the lodge’s guest cabins. When he reached the cabin that we were staying in, he approached a tall conifer, stopped, stood on his hind legs, and very deliberately rubbed his back up and down against the tree.

He looked very much as if he was scratching an itchy back that would have otherwise been impossible to reach. In fact, that wasn’t his intent. During breeding season, adult male Coastal Brown Bears select trees as signaling posts, to advertise their presence to other bears. The bears leave their scent on the trees’ bark as a kind of bear calling card.

Having finished rubbing on this tree, the bear walked just a few meters to a second tree and rubbed his body on this one as well.

This image shows the bear’s enormous size. I was told after this incident that the small brown twigs that are just above the bear’s head in the image are almost exactly eight feet (about 2.4 meters) above ground level. The bear’s impressive claws are also evident.

Notice the staircase at the right rear of the image. Those steps are at our cabin’s entrance.

The tree’s bark had numerous claw marks on it, some new, some older. Likely, this bear and perhaps others had been using the tree as a signpost for quite some time.

The bear paused briefly during his scratching to lie on the ground at the tree’s base.

In the image he appears to be sniffing at the tree’s bark. Perhaps he was checking for the scent of other bears.

Tomorrow, more about bears’ breeding behavior.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS L zoom lens, M setting (auto ISO), settings varied.

3 Replies to “Coastal Brown Bears — Leaving a Calling Card”

  1. cintwigg says:

    What a thrilling experience this must have been for you! I find it thrilling just imagining being there and seeing this enormous bear do his thing! The information about the mating behavior is fascinating too.

  2. linda karl says:


  3. burrdoo says:

    Very impressive, and great shots!

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