As a culture that is tied deeply to the natural world, you often hear hunters and trappers talk about how nature is brutal, unpredictable, and less-than “Disney-esque”. Its been so ingrained into the fabric of rural living that it almost becomes “oversimplified” - people hear it, but unless they actually see it in action, they don’t truly understand it.
When most people think of nature or wildlife, we tend to envision that picturesque tranquil setting of a wild critter looking off into the rugged sunset void of bustling cities and tourists. While we, as humans, tend to paint this romantic picture, the wild creatures who inhabit wild places rarely have time to stop and “smell the roses” - life for them is but one concept: survive.
To peel the layers of this onion back just a bit more, lets think about mammalian hierarchy within that survivalistic wild world. We’re all pretty familiar with the food chain. Some critters are at the bottom while others, such as apex predators, reap the benefits of being at the top. But as a result, apex predators such as bears, cougars, wolves, and even humans (yup, we’re animals too whether you realize it or not), are forced to compete with each other for those food sources, and, by proxy, the habitat or “territory” they reside in. Black bears and Grizzly bears do tend to overlap in much of the grizzly’s range according to bear species home-range maps, so it isn’t a surprise that skirmishes do happen. Furthermore, when opportunity strikes, bears have been known to eat each other.
Even with these facts in mind, its difficult to prepare oneself for the outrageous act of nature that Logan Hunter captured on cell phone video just a few days ago. The video, according to Hunter, was filmed just 40 minutes outside of Whitecourt, Alberta. The footage begins with a massive grizzly pawing and digging atop a berm along the forest’s edge. The grizzly is clearly fixated on whatever is nestled just under the earthen dirt. About halfway through the footage its pretty clear the grizzly has found a black bear den, as paws and claws start swinging. As the attack ensues, one of the black bear cubs can be seen evacuating the den, and as the grizzly gives chase, the mother black bear and her two remaining cubs make a break for it in the opposite direction. The footage abruptly ends as the graphically horrific cries from the remaining mauled black bear cub can be heard while the grizzly’s attack continues just out of view.
The video can be viewed below. It is uncut and uncensored. Discretion advised (strong language).
We tend to condition ourselves to a certain narrative of how nature operates. We understand that there may not be happy endings in nature, but many of us don’t fathom the type of behavior depicted above when we embellish an aversion to activities like regulated hunting and trapping. When you hear someone use the term “let nature take it’s course”, do you really know what that encompasses? Or do you have an alternate, perhaps maybe more “feel-good” prerequisite in mind for how that statement plays out?
Folks, the video above is part of “nature taking its course”, and I don’t know about you, but it turns my stomach a bit. It is what it is - I’m not making a suggestion for stopping it, condoning it, or otherwise; I’m simply stating that far too many people have never witnessed the type of nature depicted above - and I think more people should.
Some say wolves will sometimes kill just for the sake of killing - a term deemed “surplus kill”. Mink and weasels are especially known for this type of behavior. Are grizzlies similar? The bear in the video doesn’t appear to be starving, nor does it appear snow-cover has rendered other food sources short. My limited understanding of bear behavior leads me to believe the events depicted above are more related to territorial and predatory wiring, rather than hunger or survival. Its no big secret black bears especially spend considerable time defending their cubs from aggressive males of their own species - why should the threat of grizzly activity be any different? Whatever the reason - there’s no argument the events that transpired on the video footage above, and the countless other examples of nature’s routine hardships, are down right cringe-worthy.
Bear Management Nationwide
The video above has only been making the rounds for about 48 hours, and already comments range from acceptance for what it is, to criticism for the video’s owner. Many comments refer to the fact that Logan as a hunter himself, should have “done something” about the situation unfolding. While there’s about a thousand things wrong with a statement like that, the most important rebuttal came from several individuals who were quick to remind those less informed that in many parts of North America, the grizzly bear is a protected species. In Alberta, hunting has been suspended since 2006 and remains suspended today.
Even in areas where grizzlies have recovered, the topic of de-listing from endangered species status tends to raise tempers and spill over into courtrooms. Yellowstone’s grizzly population, for example, was recently determined to be recovered. Removal from legal protected status still continues to be an uphill battle.
What’s more interesting, the same day the “grizzly versus black bear video” was posted, the New York Post submitted video of a man defending his home from a charging grizzly bear in British Columbia. The video (shown below) shows the bear taking a shotgun blast at nearly point blank range, before continuing to charge the man and eventually taking off. The man in the video told NYP that he tracked the animal and did not find a blood trail - suggesting the bear took her cubs and moved on.
While researching the videos above, I discovered scrapping with grizzly bears in 2018 isn’t just reserved for dissertations on the Endangered Species Act in courtrooms. A Montana man was mauled during a bow hunt just last month. A park ranger in British Columbia was mauled just a couple months before that. Even a bear researcher in Montana had a run-in back in May.
“Bearing” these stories in mind, I’m told the number of black bear attacks on humans is higher than those of grizzly bears, mainly because the black species outnumber the grizzly nationwide, rather than black bears being more aggressive. Compared to grizzly bear attacks however, violent or deadly encounters with black bears rarely lead to serious injury and death. New Jersey recently restricted their black bear management protocols - so I’ll be watching that state closely to see if that statement continues to ring true in the future.
Just as we shouldn’t be emotionally calling on arms to wipe out our bear populations, we also shouldn’t look past the concept of regulated wildlife management. The hands-off ideology that our predators will “manage” the ecosystem for us is a reckless one - the grizzly videos above demonstrate that sometimes predators just simply kill. The grizzly versus black bear video shouldn’t be taken to place hierarchy over one species over another, rather place emphasis on the need for balance and management for all necessary species; including apex predators. The “no-management” approach, which many “protectionist” supporters would prefer, is little more than a coin-toss to determine which species can successfully compete or not.
It may be cliche, but it “bears” repeating - nature isn’t always pretty. The golden rule is that there really are no rules at all in the wild. Nature plays by its own rules. Sometimes it doesn’t have a grand plan - it just “does”.