Coastal Brown Bears — “Courtship”

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I mentioned yesterday that June is mating season for the Coastal Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park. The behavior that we witnessed was definitely not romantic.

On our first day at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge our guide introduced us to a pair of bears, a female (“sow”) and a male (“boar”). He told us that the sow had recently chased off her now three-year old offspring and would soon be receptive to mating. The boar, sensing an opportunity, had attached himself to her, clinging to her as if the two were made of Velcro. He followed her everywhere, sometimes attempting to herd her into a position where he could mate with her. She was unreceptive, so far, and plainly not excited about his attention.

Very early on our second morning at the lodge we observed the pair on the mud flats created by low tide.

The sow, the smaller member of the pair, was hunting for clams. The boar continued to follow her closely.

His attention was so close that at times the two were nose tip to nose tip.

Frequently, the boar crowded the sow so closely that she would suddenly retreat. The boar, undeterred, kept after her..

We left this couple in order to eat breakfast after observing them for nearly two hours. We returned later in the morning. We discovered the pair, still out on the tidal flats, but conditions had changed. The tide was now incoming, and rising at a remarkably fast rate of several inches a minute. As we watched, the sow attempted to head to shore and out of the rising sea. The boar was having none of it and constantly blocked the sow’s progress.

The water continued to rise, rapidly, and was soon nearly at the level of the bears’ shoulders. The sow began to show signs of desperation and began vocalizing loudly. But the boar continued to block her path.

Suddenly, the sow lashed out at the boar in obvious anger and frustration.

Repeatedly, the sow struck the boar, who appeared to strike back.

It’s unclear whether these two intended to harm each other or whether their fighting was more a matter of pushing and shoving. However, the potential for injury had to be high. Consider that each bear is armed with claws that are several inches long, inch-long canine teeth, and formidable body mass, each animal weighing several hundred pounds.

Eventually, the two combatants broke off and made their way to shore. Unfortunately, this confrontation was not without consequence. The sow limped badly as she emerged from the water and we saw her avoiding putting weight on her right front paw during the next two days. The boar continued to follow her, as closely as ever.

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 — “Courtship””

  1. […] Coastal Brown Bears — “Courtship” — Sonoran Images […]

  2. picpholio says:

    The boar is not at all a gentleman… I hope the injuries of the sow will recover soon.
    Your pictures give us a good vision on what happend.

  3. rebelbreeze says:

    thanks, some of this kind of behaviour (unfortunately far from unknown in humans) is hard to watch sometimes. I’ve seen two male drakes harass a mallard duck with her ducklings until one of them seemed to rape her.

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