Alaskan coastal grizzly bears

The Alaskan coastal grizzly bear or Alaskan brown bear illustrates the link between the interior grizzly and the Kodiak, in having much of the appearance of the former, and a good deal of the bulk of the latter. It has a similar diet to the Kodiak, but is less confined in its range, and therefore has a larger amount of genetic material available, making it less susceptible to very specific endemic adaptation. It shares much of the biology and behavioural information of the (interior or mountain) grizzly bear.

Through the Alaskan coastal grizzly it is possible to observe a trait that is both uncommon in bears, and which reflects their adaptability: During seasonal salmon runs, the bears will congregate in large groups of sometimes 30 or more animals, in an aggregation that would not be tolerated by individuals if it was not balanced by food supply. Implicit in this 'unusual' behaviour, is a recognition by individuals that the large number of animals will not outdo the food supply and compromise their potential to obtain all the food they need. Other than the association of mothers and cubs, this is one of the few occasions when bears will display any kind of 'pack' behaviour. Kodiak bears behave similarly under similar circumstances, as will black bears, particularly Kermode (spirit) bears. Polar bears congregate in southern reaches of their range, notably at Churchill, Manitoba, during the fall freeze-up of Hudson Bay. This tolerance is brief, and ends as soon as the ice is strong enough to carry a bears weight, permitting them to leave shore. This behaviour can also be observed in a denaturalised setting, such as at a garbage dump or around any plentiful and consistent artificial food source. Pack behaviour in such a context is a symptom of compromised natural behaviour and response, and is indicative of part of a process of habituation that is very dangerous to bears. Habituation is broadly discussed in a number of other areas of this website.

 

The Alaskan coastal grizzly is the same animal that is found on the Siberian Peninsula. The relationship between those Asian coastal bears and the smaller brown bear of interior Siberia and European Russia and Finnmark, mimics the relationship between Alaskan coastal grizzly bears and those in southern Canada and the United States. Just as the polar bear 'rings' the globe in the Arctic, this impression of the much larger global range of brown bears in the sub-Arctic and temperate zones clearly illustrates their status as a global species.

In the wilderness is the salvation of the world.

Henry David Thoreau