435 Holly Returns with Her Adopted Cub

June 03, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Each spring, I have questions floating around in my head.  As spring wanes and summer approaches I wonder, what stories will unfold along Brooks River this summer? Which bears will have cubs? Which bears will maintain dominance along the river? Which will survive and endure another year of hardships in the bear world? Which will become casualties?

One story from 2014 already added another chapter. Yesterday, 435 Holly and her two cubs made an early season appearance at the mouth of Brooks River. This family gained plenty of attention last summer when a then yearling cub was abandoned and subsequently adopted by 435 Holly.

435 Holly walks with her adopted cub and biological cub
435 Holly (center) walks along Brooks River with her adopted cub (left) and biological cub (right) on June 2, 2015. NPS/M. Fitz.

I received many questions about this family. I was asked one question quite often—since the adopted cub is a year older than her biological cub, will she drive it away in the spring? Last summer, I was not able that question with 100% certainty. Adoption in bears has been documented before, but most of these records simply note that an adoption occurred. Researchers didn’t elaborate on the behavior of the adopted cub within the litter or with its new mother. It has never been observed along Brooks River.

435 Holly walks with her cubs along Brooks River
435's adopted cub (now 2.5 years old) stands in front of 435 (right) and her yearling (left). NPS/M. Fitz.

Mother bears hibernate in the same den with their cubs, so we can assume that 435 did the same. In Katmai, bears keep their cubs for two to three summers, hibernate with them one more time, and then drive them away in the following spring. Presumably, 435 is treating the adopted cub (which is now two and half years old) like her biological cub. If 435 has not pushed both cubs away by June, she’s probably committed to keeping them until next spring. It seems that we will have more time to observe the story of this family unfold as spring and summer continue.

17 Comments Comments icon

  1. September 13, 2015 at 11:00

    that is real dangerous

  2. June 10, 2015 at 08:29

    What wonderful news to start the new bear season with,thank you!

  3. Jos
    June 05, 2015 at 12:17

    Thank you for the good news! We where there last year when it happened and we encountered Holly with her two cubs many times at the lower river. The abandoned cub up in trees at the camp and the falls was quite a story and everybody was releaved that Holly adopted it. When we left with the Beaver she was watching the plane, learning her then two cups to fish near the mouth of the river. She was the last bear we saw after an unforgettable week at Brooks. In the past winter we thought many times if she would make it through the winter with both cubs. Well, obviously she has. Can't wait for the webcams!

  4. June 04, 2015 at 02:40

    @JoeBear: I don't think anyone at the park has been contacted by biologists who work elsewhere. Park staff do have an opportunity to record and publish information on the behavior of this family though. I haven't been able to find info about how adopted cubs interact with litter-mates and the adult female.

  5. June 04, 2015 at 01:31

    Thank you, Ranger Mike, for the update. Through you and the explore.org cams we have all be blessed to witness this extraordinary saga. Looking forward seeing how the story unfolds this season.

  6. June 04, 2015 at 03:33

    TY Ranger Mike, this is the best important news for me to see 435 Holly and here cubs togethere again. Now we can see what happens in the growing of them . as Martina said this i a wonderful gif for all the bear friends to be part of this event. Now i hope, that Tim from explore.org can fix the tech problem at DM fast!!!! iam looking forward to see the bears live a next week!!!!! Greetings and all the best to the Brooks stuff!!! Juergen

  7. June 04, 2015 at 02:56

    Thank you Ranger Mike for keeping us updated on the returning bears as we await the cams coming back online. As always, a great article! We appreciate you, the other Rangers, and everyone at Brooks Camp for helping us bear addicts survive till they return :) hugs to everyone ♥

  8. June 03, 2015 at 11:13

    Thank you for the great news. I have also been thinking of them for the past months. So happy all is good so far.

  9. June 03, 2015 at 08:57

    Thanks Ranger Mike! This is such a great story to be able to follow. Do you have bear biologists outside of Katmai following this saga?

  10. June 03, 2015 at 06:37

    How wonderful to see this family return intact. They appear to be healthy so kudos to Holly for her mothering skills.

  11. June 03, 2015 at 06:10

    hi ranger mike thankyou for the update on holly and the cubs looking forward to following bear cam this year is really wonderful to see the family for the first time this year as Katmai holds a very special place in my heart that i hope to visit one day Best wishers for the season ahead roselind.

  12. June 03, 2015 at 05:02

    Thank you Ranger Mike for the update and information. Looking forward to another successful and awesome bear season at Katmai!

  13. June 03, 2015 at 04:51

    Great And Wonderful News!!! Thank You For The Pictures!

  14. June 03, 2015 at 04:07

    So great to see them again, looking forward to a fun summer watching the Katmai Bears. Thanks for the story and pictures!

  15. June 03, 2015 at 04:06

    Hi Ranger Mike and thank you for the article. I was hoping so much that the family comes back to Brooks together, I see it as a great gift for all of us! Now we will have the opportunity to observe the behavior of "the most famous bear family" and the development of the two cubs for another season. This is wonderful, i`m so excited and looking forward to see more and to learn more about the bears of Brooks River! Fingers crossed for the cams back online soon. Best wishes, Martina

  16. June 03, 2015 at 03:21

    I am so happy they have returned safely. I sure hope I get to see them again this summer.

  17. June 03, 2015 at 03:00

    Thank you for the update! Just love the thought of them all cozy together for the winter.

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Last updated: June 3, 2015

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