The Grizzlies of Mount McKinley
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This monograph is based on observations of grizzly bears in Mount McKinley National Park* by my father, Adolph Murie. He spent a total of 25 summers in the park from 1922 to 1970. In earlier years information was obtained incidentally in the course of studies on wolves and ungulates; after the mid-1950s, he concentrated his efforts on grizzlies.

*The name was changed to Denali National Park in December, 1980.

He spent long hours observing bears, even when the animals were engaged only in feeding on vegetation or resting. The development of an interesting event in the inter-relationships of bear families or of bears with other species was so unpredictable that he tried to be on the spot when it occurred. Often he followed a bear family for several consecutive days as it traveled through the park in a course parallel with, and visible from, the park highway. Because certain characteristics were apparent to him, he could distinguish quite accurately the different bear families, mothers, and cubs.

A number of people who traveled regularly in the park, such as photographers and park personnel, kept him informed on the locations of bears. He was careful to examine his sources of information for reliability and accuracy, and he drew conclusions from his observations with care.

At the time of his death in 1974, he had completed drafts of most sections of the manuscript and was in the process of incorporating observations from his last three summers in the field. I completed this task and have written several of the short sections which were sketched out only roughly. In this and in editing completed sections, I have tried to retain the spirit in which he wrote. However, I am sure, had he been able, he would have added considerably more polish to the manuscript. His approach to writing was literary, and is reflected, perhaps, in a quotation by Margary Allingham that he saved: "I write every paragraph four times: once to get my meaning down, once to put in everything I left out, once to take out everything that seems unnecessary, and once to make the whole thing sound as if I had only just thought of it." He also took the advice of his brother, O. J. Murie, who in 1962 wrote in a letter: "it seems to me we should get away from the strictly scientific methods of today, so much like the laboratory technique. We have to speak the truth but we can use human language in doing so." In an early draft of the introduction, Adolph wrote, "I have, I think, avoided the ecologist's jargon, the scientific phrases so frequently created by ecologists and animal behaviorists to make simple facts sound profound and impressive."

This monograph is a report on the behavior and ecology of grizzly bears in McKinley National Park. Adolph inserted a few references and I have added others, mainly where a comparison of quantitative results (litter size, density, etc.) seemed appropriate. However, it is obvious that he did not intend this to be a comprehensive monograph on grizzlies throughout their range.

Adolph held strong philosophical views about biological studies in national parks; some of these are apparent in the text. Although he recognized that studies of marked bears would yield additional data of value, he felt strongly that marked animals are out of place in national parks. It was his view that the aesthetic experiences possible in a wilderness park such as McKinley should be cherished, and National Park Service policy should work to promote such experiences. I think his attitude is well expressed in a quotation which he copied just before his death from The Wilderness of Beauty by Edward Graves: "This perfection is much more likely to be realized where the hand of man is only reverently and lightly laid upon it."


Adolph Murie on Muldrow Glacier, 1939.

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Last Updated: 06-Dec-2007