One of favorite things to do in the fall is to head to the high country when the elk are in rut. The sounds of the bugles reverberating through the mountains all night long is music to sleep by. And to have the opportunity to chase and "talk" to them with my selection of calls is as exciting as anything I do with a camera.
This year my scouting over the past few years in Arizona paid off with some great photos. And additional trip in northern Colorado to the Rocky Mountain National Park paid even bigger dividends. For 4 1/2 days I hiked and drove through the park in search of elk. They were not hard to find, especially if you were willing to walk a little. I did realize it had been a while since I've worked at 9,000 feet though. I had to delete a few nice video snips I took because of my hard breathing that was recorded when filming the video.
But I've posted a couple on You Tube and you can see one of them just below.
I was also hoping to hit the aspen turning at the same time but I was about a week late. It still was beautiful and I've posted some of my elk and landscape photos from this fall below. I hope you enjoy them. I sure enjoyed taking them.
And in case you are wondering I'm already working on finding good accomodations for taking a photo natural history tour to Estes starting in either 2013 or 2014 at the latest.
Coastal brown bears are one of the largest land carnivores in the world with males weighing up to 1500 lbs. On average polar bears are larger but the largest bear ever weighed was an Alaskan brown bear over 1800 lbs. This guy is probably a mere 1000 lbs, and will probably be 200 to 300 more after the salmon season.
This sow is probably just over 500 lbs while her 2 cubs are near a 100 lbs at 14 - 16 mos old.
How large do Coastal brown bears get?
The size of course depends on the age and the sex of the bear. A brown bear male (also known as a boar) is usually fully grown at 8 years old, and gains about 100 lbs a year from 3 to 8. His final weight will be from 800 - 1000 pounds, but brown bear males over 1500 pounds have been measured. A female (aka sows) usually stops growing at 5 years old and weighs about 350 -500 pounds midsummer. Both the male and female can easily gain a couple hundred pounds from early summer to late fall when they go into hibernation. An interior brown or grizzly boar could range from 500 up to 700 (but that's very large) and a female will be from 3 to 500 lbs.
Why are the Coastal Brown Bears larger?
The larger predictable supply of the vegetation and berries growing along the coast helps, but it’s primarily the salmon diet that helps them attain and keep a large size. Not only are coastal brown bears up to twice as large as inland browns, their populations are up to 10 to 20 times denser than interior populations, another facet based on the abundance of food. Females tend to have larger litters and are more successful at raising them. The predictable supply of the high fat/protein salmon diet gives them a tremendous ability to succeed.
At an average of 4000 calories per fish stored, this is when the coastal brown bears really put on the weight, eating from 10 to 50 fish/day
When do the bears begin to eat the salmon?
The answer to this is easy, but not exact. It's as soon as they can! Bears seem to have an uncanny knack for knowing when the salmon begin to run and will show up within a few days, often congregating at shallow spots along the creek where it is easier for them to catch the fish. Depending on the geographic location in either Katmai or Lake Clark National Parks, salmon may be available as early as late June or as late as August-September in other areas.
How many salmon does a bear eat a day? Do they eat the whole
The short answer to both questions is it depends. How many salmon they eat depends how many they can catch, and how large of a bear they are. If the salmon are numerous and each bear can catch the number of salmon they want, they will catch somewhere between 10 and 20 a day, but large males have been seen catching and eating as many as 50.
Each salmon is roughly worth 4,000 calories in entirety, and 20,000 calories ingested a day is common. In the height of a salmon run, bears are estimated to gain from 2 to 4.5 lbs in fat a day. That’s very important for that winter hibernation period. If the salmon numbers are high, and the bear is skilled at catching fish (something they get better at with age), bears are known to switch to just eating the fatty parts of the fish. Fat has twice the calories of protein, so it's possible to see a bear just eat the brains, the skin, and the eggs if it's a female salmon. They may lay that carcass down and then go get another. Although you may consider that wasteful, nature won't allow it and the red mass of protein will be utilized later by less skilled bears, cubs, or even other species such as bald eagles, gulls, magpies, or even other fish like the dolly varden that follow the salmon.
This large bear is skinning the just caught salmon. When the fish are really running in large numbers some good fishing bears may only eat the skin, roe (eggs), and brains. The rest does not go to waste however, and the waste is quickly devoured by less skilled fishing bears and/or eagles and trout waiting near by.