Monday, February 1, 2010


Pole Dancing grizzly - for adults only please.. This video was sent to me by my good friend, and fellow bear lover, David Salmanowitz (as you can see from the info below it was a motion sensing video camera that took the video as part of the research efforts for the Northern Divide Bear Project).

The bears are back! I created a blog awhile ago called Gobies to Grizzlies (, but contributed to the site infrequently. I also had a lot of fish people saying they were sick of all the grizzly stuff and thought it would be best if I split the blog into two – one on grizzlies and one on gobies (i.e., marine fishes). I had a few grizzly people that echoed these sentiments. So I decided to take their advice.

You are looking at the first manifestation of the goby to grizzly split – (The second manifestation will be a fish only site to come later.) I am committing to making more frequent posts to this blog that will include everything I learn and can track down about bears – a clearing-house of ursid information you might say. Of course, the starring role will go to Ursus arctos, the grizzly bear, but I will also share information on other bear species.

Good Grizzly?

How about the new title? Why “good grizzly?” Isn’t that an oxymoron – how can a grizzly – the most menacing terrestrial mammal of them all – be referred to as "good?" I believe that the grizzly is much less dangerous than the media and the sensationalistic bear books (e.g., “Killer Bears,” “Alaskan Bear Stories,” etc.) portray them to be. (If you have read some of the posts I put on gobies to grizzlies [which are included below] you will find a defense of this premise). I believe that we, in part, have made grizzlies more dangerous because of how we treat/interact with them. They are only reacting to our bad behavior.

Bears do not engage in moral decision like people do. So when they do smash a camper to the ground to steal a pack or when they kill and consume a person (which they rarely do –see foot note below*), they are simply being bears – that is, an animal that has been honed by time and change (selective pressures) to survive the rigors of its natural environment. As a part of this natural world, we are sometimes confronted by creatures that are stronger and better equipped to defend or offend. This does not equate to their being “bad” or “good” – it equates to their being able to survive.

Yes, grizzly bears can be dangerous to our kind. As a result, they are worthy of our utmost respect. Do they seek out humans to devour*? Only on very rare occasions. Do they maul those that trespass on their domain? Yes, but infrequently and in many cases these agonistic encounters can be directly linked to human error or incompetence.

Like our own species, the personalities of individual grizzlies can vary considerably. Some are more aggressive or “hair-triggered” than others and these individuals are more likely to “go off” if the conditions are right (or wrong!). (In some cases these bears are on edge as a result of past bad experiences with our own species.) Dr. Steve Stringham, a man who has spent hundreds of hours watching brown bears in Alaska, speaks of “Satanic bears.” These “malcontents” often chase other bears and are also more likely to behave aggressively toward humans they encounter in the field. These bears, which may be programmed by hormones or chromosomes to be more malevolent, should be given the widest of berths.

So are grizzlies bad? No, I believe they are good. Not in the sense of the that they are “morally excellent” or “always agreeable and pleasant,” but according to the definition of good that means they are “highly excellent.” The grizzly is a highly excellent creature that is finely tuned to survive in a very hostile environment.

I hope you enjoy the blog.

* Grizzly predation on humans is very rare, which is in some ways surprising. This bear is a large opportunistic predator that feeds on huge prey items, like buffalo, elk and moose (that said, they most often prey on the young or sick of these species). Felling a human and consuming it, even the strongest and biggest among us, would be child’s play for even a subadult grizzly. But they just don’t consume our species very often.

To back this up, consider a study done on Alaskan bear attacks (the results were based on data collected to around 2005). Alaska has more bears than anywhere else in North America (approximately 100,000 black bears, 35,000 brown or grizzly bears and 3,000 to 4,000 polar bears). On average, one person is killed by a bear every 1.8 years with an additional 2.2 people being injured by a bear annually. Of all the recorded attacks in Alaska, brown bears killed and injured the most people (50 killed and 187 injured compared to five deaths and 25 injures attributed to black bears). Of all these attacks (most of which were brown bears), less than 1 % of the attacks resulted in the bear consuming the human. Conclusion: bear attacks are rarely motivated by predation. See past posts for more on what motivates grizzlies to attack people.

© Scott W. Michael

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