GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: This story features videos that may be disturbing to some readers.
DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — A large carnivore specialist says videos recently circulating online of a grizzly bear dragging a black bear’s body in the Pine Pass is unusual behaviour for the animal.
Although it is common for a grizzly bear to attack a black bear, Garth Mowat, the large carnivore specialist for the provincial government, says it’s not something typically seen along a highway.
The short clips were taken around 11:30 a.m. on August 30th, depicting a grizzly bear shaking and dragging a black bear’s body.
Susan Griffith, who took and posted the videos, said the black bear appeared dead when she was driving by.
Mowat says it was hard to tell in the videos, but he wonders if the black bear was hit on the road and the grizzly bear was struggling to carry it up the slope.
“We know [grizzly bears] patrol highways and railways looking for carcasses, usually it’s a deer, an elk or a moose, not a black bear,” Mowat said.
According to Mowat, black bears are typically most at risk from grizzly bears when they just come out of their dens in the spring because they’re still weary from their hibernation.
“Usually, bears don’t like to be out in the open, but I guess he was not going to give up that meal. It was too valuable to him,” Mowat said.
The specialist says black bears are mentioned as a potential food source for grizzlies and have been for decades.
“There are records of that going way back, but we’ve had more in the last 20 or 30 years, probably because we have more cameras out there in the bush,” Mowat said.
There have been more mortalities recorded in recent years due to the placement of more cameras in the bush, along with tracking devices on grizzly bears, which has given those who study them a better understanding of their movements and diet.
“I don’t think the grizzly bear population is being sustained by black bears anywhere, but they will make an effort to kill a black bear, and they do certainly eat it. It’s not just a competitive thing,” Mowat said.
He said an essential part of a grizzly bear’s diet is fat because they hibernate, and black bears are one of the fattier food sources.
In addition, the specialist said grizzly bears are much more aggressive than black bears, and even polar bears avoid grizzly bears.
“Very commonly, when there’s a whale washed up on the beach on the north slope of the arctic coast, there’ll be groups of polar bears waiting to eat the whale while two grizzly bears eat,” Mowat said.
“They don’t go to the whale and start eating until the grizzly bears leave. That’s been documented regularly.”
According to Mowat, this is because grizzly bears evolved in a much more open setting where they don’t have the option to run and possibly hide from a threat like a black bear does.
“There’s an evolutionary basis to why grizzly bears are so aggressive, and they put that to work,” Mowat said.
To learn more about what to do when encountering wildlife, including grizzly bears and black bears, visit Wild Safe BC’s website.