Epic Blog

Alaska Brown Bears – The Earth Mover

12.22.11

Alaskan brown bears are powerful animals. Their large hump is a musculoskeletal adaptation optimized for efficient digging (perhaps better stated as “earth moving”), plus it helps them attain great bursts of speed over short distances (most references report up to 30 mph).

Ron stands over bear dig-out

Frankly, it is difficult to comprehend what “earth moving” means until you see a hungry brown bear, with its 4″ long claws, dig out a marmot or ground squirrel. Out on the Alaska Peninsula where we occasionally witness this act, the volcanic soil is sometimes rock laden, but generally tends to be digging friendly… and we’ve seen bears excavate a man (or two) sized pit in mere seconds, literally.

Although they did not witness the act of digging, the bear pit on the left was found by guest Ron and head guide Ted while on a hike at our Alaska Wilderness OUTPOST camp during the 2011 season.

Shredded in seconds

The next sign of brown bear power is the shredded log. The obvious and most likely conclusion is the bears are after insects living in the logs, but some of our own observations suggest log shredding may be either an act of playing (for younger bears) or an act of frustration, like during the early season when the salmon runs are not yet in full force.

On the subject of bear play, we have also witnessed young bears (cub to 1.5 years old) pick up small logs measuring 3 to 4 inches in diameter and 5 to 6 feet long, throw them in the air, run and pounce on the log, then repeat until tired. Just like a young dog with a chew toy, except these chew toys must weigh 5 or 10 pounds!

This play must be the human equivalent of being at the gym, training to someday become an earth mover.

Posted in Wildlife


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