Chunk Didn’t Displace 856

A few days ago, bearcam viewers alerted me to an interesting interaction at Brooks Falls where 32 Chunk appeared to displace 856.

I’ve taken some time to review bearcam footage of the subordinate bear in the video above, and I don’t think he is 856. The bear looks like an adult male, based on his size and the presence of scars around his face. I don’t recognize him, but I am willing to say it is not 856. Here’s why…

856 is a large adult male with blond ears and a long neck. This year he returned with a noticeable limp and sports a shed patch on his rump.

856 will fish at several different places in the falls—the jacuzzi, in the far pool, and near the rocks in between. When he sits at the rocks, he does so in a fairly distinctive manner.

When 856 fishes the jacuzzi, he’ll often leave that spot to eat near the island, almost sitting and facing away from the cam.

In contrast to these behaviors, the bear displaced by 32 Chunk doesn’t appear to be limping (and I’ll admit that bears can heal quickly, so the limp may not be very pronounced now). Both 856 and the unidentified bear may have similar wounds or scars on their face, the ears of the bear displaced by 32 Chunk are darker. The contrast between the unidentified male bear’s front quarters and hind quarters is also more apparent than 856. His muzzle appears blockier than 856, and 856 is very unlikely to play with 89 Backpack.

bear standing in water near waterfall

This is a screen shot of the unidentified adult male who displaced by 32 Chunk.

bear standing on grass near water

856 walking on the island near Brooks Falls in July 2015.

So was this a changing of the guard at Brooks Falls? Probably not. In my opinion, 32 Chunk displaced a full grown adult male, but the subordinate bear was not 856. However, in the absence of other large males like 856 and 747, 32 Chunk may be the most dominant bear on the river. Chunk clearly asserted his dominance over the unidentified male.

Almost every year, a new and fully mature adult bear shows up at Brooks River. Bears are creatures of habit, but they also remain flexible, changing their behaviors when necessary. The unidentified male may have never visited Brooks Falls before and never encountered 32 Chunk. His life up until now is a mystery, but these events are one reason why the story of Brooks River’s bears is so fascinating. This is a constantly evolving story. It will never become static.

View more photos of 856 from 2015 and 2016.
(Thanks to bearcam fan stmango for compiling many videos for me to review.)

18 thoughts on “Chunk Didn’t Displace 856

  1. Thank you Mike! I was wrong, wrong, wrong, but I prefer that to being unsure. It will be interesting to see if this is a new bear or just an unrecognized bear.


    • No worries! I’ve made more errors identifying bears than I’d like to admit. I also wouldn’t have been able to develop an informed opinion with the videos you compiled in once place.


    • We need to send an SOS to Ranger Leslie! She’s the only person right now who can clear up these mysteries. I don’t think this bear is the bear we’ve been calling “mystery bear”. So does that mean we have two unknown adult male bears this year? All the while no 747, no 775 and barely any 856.


  2. More than one of us? *delicate cough*
    Thanks for taking a look at that and sharing your analysis and interpretation.
    I am really wondering where 747 is though. Is he really courting sows and finding other places to eat? Because a number of the sows we know/might expect to be in estrus are on the river. (402, 273, 505, 261 etc)
    Clearly the abundance this year of fish has attracted a number of bears. We also have two unidentified sows with cubs as well.


  3. Another mystery: who was the second bear who played with 89 the other day above the falls? Some think the second bear was 856 — I think SO unlikely. Others think it might have been Chunk. Would love to hear your opinion. Thanks.


    • In that video, I only recognized 89 Backpack with certainty, but the ears on the darker bear resemble 151 Walker, but the face isn’t right for him. The mystery bear is in that video too, but he remains the mystery bear for now.


  4. It seems like there have been fewer “resident” bears at Brooks Camp over than last few years. Is that true, or just what it looks like on the webcams?


    • On the cams, it does seem like there are fewer bears than past years, but the cams often don’t capture the whole scene at the river. More than anything the high abundance of fish at Brooks River has kept the bears sated, so they need to spend less time fishing to get full. This greatly affects the density of bears we see at any one time at the falls.


  5. Hi Mike, I read your comment today about 474 could be not273. I was wondering could the mystery bear 32 displaced in the video be 474? Similarities I have noticed between the two: 474’s left ear has a funny angle, 474 also has interesting multi-coloured coat that sometimes appear purple-ish to me. I’ve found not273’s behaviour to be very different from 474, but that’s just me.


  6. Pingback: Filling the Gaps | Wandering at Large

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