I watched quite a good show on the Discovery Channel last night, about grizzly bears. A crew got (we were told) closer than anyone ever before had gotten for an extended period to a bunch of grizzlies at a bay in Alaska where more grizzlies gather than anywhere else. They gather for the salmon.
I confide this bit of gossip to you for a reason. I noticed an interesting thing – not at all surprising, but interesting. It’s a hard life being a bear. You have to pack in the food in order to survive the winter. You can’t decide oh well it’s ok I’ll just keep hunting all winter, because you’ll be hibernating instead.
It’s a hard life, so naturally it’s a competitive life. The males grab food away from the females.
One unfortunate seal got into shallow water and was surrounded by bears so couldn’t get out again, and a female killed it and carried it off. The biggest male followed her, she tried to outrun him for a bit but when that didn’t work she just gave up. The male buried the seal on the beach…at low tide. (The tv crew wryly noted that he had more brawn than brains.) The tide came in, and next morning the seal was gone. The male bear sniffed around the burial spot, and considered killing the tv crew in case they’d done it, and then wandered off and went fishing. Then the seal carcass washed up and a different female, with a cub, found it. A different male came ambling up to take it away from her, and she fought him. The tv crew advised against this, and after he knocked her around a bit she did give up.
That’s life with the bears.
All those big tough males who take all the food off the females – they’re there because their mothers managed to get enough food for both of them to survive. The whole thing depends on the females and their cubs surviving, but the males simply grab the food when they can. It’s a wonder any of them survive to grow up.
(Then again because of the salmon it’s a crowded spot. Bears usually don’t crowd together. The salmon is abundant but the crowding means that females don’t get to keep big carcasses. It would be interesting to know if it all balances out for the females or if they would do better elsewhere.)
It reminded me of Haiti after the earthquake, when men simply pushed and shoved in the food lines and women and children couldn’t get any food.