Bear Bones

August 19, 2016 Posted by: Daniel Lombardi

A glint of white bone caught the eye of an archeologist ranger near the angler’s trail that leads from the falls platform to the upper half of the Brooks River last week.  They stumbled across the remains of a large brown bear that they say wasn’t there when they first initiated their work in the area in June. 

Photo comparisons of the bear’s teeth to images of bear #814’s teeth show similarities. Bear #814 hasn’t been seen on the river in recent weeks. Bear Techs are quick to say that teeth pictures are not enough to conclusively say what bear it is and that we will never know for sure.  Examine the images for yourself and make up your own mind; is this bear #814?

A comparison of 814's teeth and those of the skeleton's

The bones were found a matted down circle of dry grass with almost all meat and blood stripped away. Only a small amount of connective tissue remained. The back legs were missing from the area and the front legs were present but a small distance away.
 

The full skeleton lies on the forest floor

NPS Photo/ T. Carmack

A tissue sample was collected for genetic analysis and future study but there was not nearly enough remaining to determine what killed it. Such a large and charismatic creature temps us to imagine this bear going out in an epic battle for dominance. But bears rarely fight to the death and there’s no evidence that this was a violent death. But it could have been.

A bear's paw on the ground with human hand for scale
NPS Photo/T. Carmack. 

The bear could have died from disease, parasites, old age, or a thousand other things. Many bears are affected by canine adenovirus type one, canine distemper, canine parvo, infection, and encephalitis, not to mention all the parasites. They can also suffer from arthritis, cataracts, cavities, and numerous kinds of tumors. Parasites and diseases rarely kill bears but often weaken and make them more susceptible to death in other forms.

Bear bones lay in the grass
NPS Photo/ T. Carmack.

To some extent other bears probably ate this bear. Its back legs were completely removed from the area. It’s body also likely fed a myriad of other animals and insects. Death is part of the natural cycle of life in Katmai National Park.
 

Rangers collected the head and claws to be cleaned and used for education. I can already imagine passing around the claws to visitors and telling them how special this place is. In the coming years thousands of inquisitive eyes will gaze into this bear’s empty sockets and wonder how it lived.

A bear skull in the grass

death, renewal, Brooks River, Brown Bear




48 Comments Comments icon

  1. Mary
    July 08, 2017 at 01:55
     

    Hi bear lovers Just found out about Lurch. Sorry to see such a bear die. I remember watching him steal poor Patch's cache. Patch tried to go back to the Cache but Lurch was always nearby. It was so interesting to see him covering the cache. Mary

     
  2. August 22, 2016 at 10:48
     

    Thank you Ranger Daniel for the update. Always informative and always inspires reflection. I just started watching the BearCam this year. Ive learned so much from these posts and live chats about the bears and interconnectedness to their ecosystem. This bear lived a good life.. a life in the wild. I support the National Parks and Katmai in preserving these wild spaces.

     
  3. August 22, 2016 at 10:39
     

    Thank you Ranger Daniel for the update. I just started watching the BearCams this year. I have learned so much about bears and their ecosystem. This bear lived a good life because it lived in the wild and I support the effort of the National Parks to keep Katmai wild.

     
  4. August 21, 2016 at 11:15
     

    Sad to hear about Lurch. Thanks for the caring report and all the nice comments that people have made. At least he died a "natural" death and not at the pleasure of some "sportsman".

     
  5. August 20, 2016 at 12:00
     

    Rangers Daniel and Dave: thank you for keeping us up-to-date about our beloved bear community. I have been watching for a couple of months now and am absolutely enthralled by these gorgeous bears. I only got to see Lurch a few times but was really saddened to learn of his death. RIP Lurch.

     
  6. August 20, 2016 at 03:28
     

    Daniel, you have a way with words, young man. Beautiful, poetic...your posts are thrilling. Love the way you lead the reader - sort of inviting them to think a little differently about things we think we know about...but do we? Nice. Keep up the good work! I am looking forward to your first book of poetry about your experiences at Katmai NP! 🐻

     
  7. August 19, 2016 at 11:24
     

    Love the updates, photos, and your great in depth information on this and all thingy hairy at Katmai. Was his skull found upright as it is shown in the second photo- or tipped as it is shown in the last? RIP beautiful bear.

     
  8. August 19, 2016 at 10:31
     

    Thank you Ranger Daniel for the way you brought the news of Lurch. He was my first witness on Katmai Cams on Explore.org of the true meaning of a Brown Bear. You see so much going on in the very wild lives of brown bears. With every Bear you see a uniquness. Lurch RIP - I toast to your life and what you taught us. Living as a gorgeous wild bear gracing us with your presence. You will be one big missed hunk. You taught us about life as a brown bear. Now your legacy will be studied, shared and studied. As we know life in the wild can take many turns for wild animals. As a group of worldwide viewers we should take pride in the information exchanged through the wonderful Rangers at Katmai and through the Explore.org cams. Hope to see you over the rainbow bridge romping for fish Lurch.

     
  9. August 19, 2016 at 10:26
     

    I had just started watching the bear cams last year when Lurch showed up with so many wounds and moving so slowly I thought he was many years older than he actually was. He was the first bear I could identify every time. I immediately developed a soft spot for him as I watched him persevere and grow stronger. I know we are not supposed to put human feelings to bear behavior but I couldn't help thinking he didn't like his lower status very much but he endured it, seeming to stay away from any trouble/power struggles and that made me more fond of him. I didn't 'know' him when he was at the top of the hierarchy and "mean". The teeth do appear very similar and maybe we will know for sure when he does or doesn't show up in September. No matter which bear this is, here's hoping that Bear Heaven is unlimited sockeye salmon! And I am thankful for the unmeasurable pleasure and wonder the Bears being to my life.

     
  10. August 19, 2016 at 09:58
     

    Last year during our visit to Brooks, my husband and I were walking on the boardwalk to the falls when we heard a soft noise off the trail. We looked around and spotted Lurch sleeping just a few feet off the trail. He was easy to identify because of the wound left by his missing ear. The noise we head was his snoring :-) We didn't want to disturb him, and since no one else was approaching, we stood there quietly just watching him, not even taking pictures in case out camera's clicking would wake him up. It is sad to even think of these majestic creatures dying but a least Lurch died as a wild and free bear. And perhaps his passing will open up a slot on the dominance hierarchy for a young bear trying to live his life in Katmai.

     
  11. August 19, 2016 at 09:16
     

    As I read this blog post I struggled to grasp the news- Lurch was gone. A bear that was everything a dominant boar could be had vanished into the the forest where he laid down along a path surrendering his fishing spot to other bears, his bones to the forest, his death to mystery, and his spirit to the rangers, the staff, the viewers and the visitors to Brooks.

     
  12. August 19, 2016 at 08:40
     

    Thanks for sharing this news with us Ranger Daniel. 814 Lurch was one heck of a bear, but he will continue teaching us humans on what a bear's life is like at Katmai NP. He will be remembered along with the other bears we've recently lost.

     
  13. August 19, 2016 at 07:49
     

    Thank you so much for the photos and information. I love a few old bears. One was Flo now 410 and Otis 480. If this was 418 I am mystified. Perhaps that ear was more infected etc. than we knew but his teeth show his age (If it was him) so much conjecture. I am very pleased that you will keep what will be helpful to you for education and - wonder! Very good thing to do because this bear earned a spot in Brooks memory and artifacts. That large head and huge hands will amaze everyone.

     
  14. August 19, 2016 at 06:47
     

    It is so sad to get news like this. Lurch was a special bear-especially to all of us who have been watching since 2012 when he took over Patch's cache. He was so dominant then and seemed to go downhill pretty rapidly from that point or the year after. Perhaps the parasites did take a toll on his resilience. Glad to know why he hasn't been around for a couple of months though. Thanks Ranger Daniel for your writeup on this and your eloquent way of sharing your experiences there with us. It is a joy (most of the time) to read your thoughts on paper.

     
  15. August 19, 2016 at 06:39
     

    Well, if these remains are Lurch, this is sad even though he was one kinda mean bear. A reminder that every being comes to an end.

     
  16. August 19, 2016 at 06:39
     

    Well, if these remains are Lurch, this is sad even though he was one kinda mean bear. A reminder that every being comes to an end.

     
  17. August 19, 2016 at 05:27
     

    So to know that 814 has passed. He was one of the first bears I could identify. The missing ear made him more susceptible to dangers, but also more aware of his surroundings. Thank you for sharing his passing with us. I am also thankful I got to learn about him from the rangers and Katmai page.

     
  18. August 19, 2016 at 05:27
     

    So to know that 814 has passed. He was one of the first bears I could identify. The missing ear made him more susceptible to dangers, but also more aware of his surroundings. Thank you for sharing his passing with us. I am also thankful I got to learn about him from the rangers and Katmai page.

     
  19. August 19, 2016 at 05:27
     

    So to know that 814 has passed. He was one of the first bears I could identify. The missing ear made him more susceptible to dangers, but also more aware of his surroundings. Thank you for sharing his passing with us. I am also thankful I got to learn about him from the rangers and Katmai page.

     
  20. August 19, 2016 at 05:11
     

     
  21. August 19, 2016 at 05:05
     

    I am truly heartbroken. Lurch was such a wonderful dominant bear. I have to say Im very grateful to have been able to watch him fish at the falls earlier this season and past years. I do hope his passing was peaceful.

     
  22. August 19, 2016 at 04:56
     

    I've been missing him for weeks. He hasn't been around since the beginning of July. It's disturbing to me that he (a huge male bear) could almost disappear in a few weeks. RIP Lurch #814 😢

     
  23. August 19, 2016 at 04:42
     

    I am so sad to see this. Amazed, as well, knowing what a find it is for the rangers and anyone trying to learn more about the bears. It certainly does look a lot like Lurch's teeth and how sad. I was wondering why we didn't see much of him. I am hoping this was not a violent death, nor something contagious. Lurch was quite the fighter. I would imagine if he had been in a fight with another bear we would have seen someone looking pretty beat up about the time this happened and I don't recall that. Maybe the rangers or others do? RIP Lurch. We all honour your life and passing. May your offspring bring you delight from the next life!

     
  24. August 19, 2016 at 04:42
     

    I was so shocked when I read the Ranger's post that #814 had succumbed to forces of nature (another animal, injury, virus). I first met #814 in 2012 when he ran Patches from a cache on the island in the LR. I must admit I wasn't very happy with #814 for killing and consuming another bear. I had hoped he couldn't dig a den big enough to cover his butt and that he would freeze his butt! I have to admit I grew fonder of him as each year passed. He was a beautiful bear and when he had that rich chocolate coat in the fall, he had curls around his head and neck that looked like a sheep. Losing his ear didn't distract from his appearance that much. I was amazed at his relicenses and recovery. He will be missed on Brooks as will the others who are gone (Tundra, Flo, Ted, Wayne Bro. and the little cubs who didn't get to experience life as a cub, sub-adult, yearling, etc.). They will all be missed. Thank you Rangers for sharing this sad news.

     
  25. August 19, 2016 at 04:42
     

    I was so shocked when I read the Ranger's post that #814 had succumbed to forces of nature (another animal, injury, virus). I first met #814 in 2012 when he ran Patches from a cache on the island in the LR. I must admit I wasn't very happy with #814 for killing and consuming another bear. I had hoped he couldn't dig a den big enough to cover his butt and that he would freeze his butt! I have to admit I grew fonder of him as each year passed. He was a beautiful bear and when he had that rich chocolate coat in the fall, he had curls around his head and neck that looked like a sheep. Losing his ear didn't distract from his appearance that much. I was amazed at his relicenses and recovery. He will be missed on Brooks as will the others who are gone (Tundra, Flo, Ted, Wayne Bro. and the little cubs who didn't get to experience life as a cub, sub-adult, yearling, etc.). They will all be missed. Thank you Rangers for sharing this sad news.

     
  26. August 19, 2016 at 04:39
     

    Thank you for your post! Life is something we all enjoy thinking about and in the case of the bears at Katmai, we all love watching them live their lives in front of us. Death is harder to think of even though it is a fact of life so to speak, but because of your blog posting we can learn something from it. What also touches us Brooks Falls LiveCam viewers is that we now know that Lurch will continue to help promote education and give people a better understanding of the Katmai bears.

     
  27. August 19, 2016 at 04:06
     

    Thank you for the photos and details Ranger Daniel. I hope it was a peaceful death for this beautiful bear.

     
  28. August 19, 2016 at 03:43
     

    Thank you for the totally inforamtive, totally objective post! Losing anybody, animal or human, is hard, but that's what happens. And the head and claws will be a great, long-lasting memorial!

     
  29. August 19, 2016 at 03:42
     

    This is sad news to hear of the passing of such a beautiful creature🐻My prayer is that he didn't suffer too much and whatever took his life took it quickly. It is a blessing and a privilege to be able to witness first hand the growth, development, and daily lives of these amazing animals💜

     
  30. August 19, 2016 at 02:58
     

    I agree the teeth seem to be that of Lurch. I hope there is much to learn from these bones, but cannot help feel sad at a magnificent animal passing. RIP Lurch... I like to picture him where the Salmon will be jumping in abundance eternally!!!!

     
  31. August 19, 2016 at 02:41
     

    This is my first season watching the Katmai Bears. The daily goings on at Brooks Falls is very exciting and educational. Its easy to fall in love with the bears and have favorites. Lurch was an extraordinary character. He surely will be missed. Bless your true bear spirit, Lurch. Roam free buddy.

     
  32. August 19, 2016 at 01:55
     

    The news of Lurch passing away is heartbreaking, Very sad day indeed, We lost beautiful bear 868 last fall now 814 :( I am speechless.

     
  33. August 19, 2016 at 01:54
     

    Thank you Ranger Daniel for your updates and posts. 814 Lurch was resilient, brash and even a bit controversial, but we all fell in love with his toughness and his enduring spirit. He was above all, a magnificent brown bear living the life of a brown bear, wild and free. So glad to be a part of his life and all these bears at Brooks. May they all continue to teach, inspire and motivate us to protect and save places like Katmai.

     
  34. August 19, 2016 at 01:36
     

    I hate to think of this as Lurch, he was still a fairly young bear. Maybe it's better we never know. I thought he was so tough after losing his ear, maybe that was all we saw and there was more to it. If it was him he lived the best life a bear could live in Katmai. Sad.

     
  35. August 19, 2016 at 01:36
     

    I hate to think of this as Lurch, he was still a fairly young bear. Maybe it's better we never know. I thought he was so tough after losing his ear, maybe that was all we saw and there was more to it. If it was him he lived the best life a bear could live in Katmai. Sad.

     
  36. August 19, 2016 at 01:36
     

    I hate to think of this as Lurch, he was still a fairly young bear. Maybe it's better we never know. I thought he was so tough after losing his ear, maybe that was all we saw and there was more to it. If it was him he lived the best life a bear could live in Katmai. Sad.

     
  37. Kim
    August 19, 2016 at 01:26
     

    If this is indeed Lurch (#814,) the entire bear community will miss his presence. RIP, and know as long as there is an Explore Bear Family, your life and death will be remembered.

     
  38. August 19, 2016 at 01:00
     

    MChez said it all. Who would have thought that the death of a big tough lug of a bear like Lurch would bring tears to one's eyes, but it has. Hope to meet Lurch on the other side. And I hope is kind to Ted and 868. :-(

     
  39. August 19, 2016 at 12:58
     

    I can't help but be very sad. May the bones of 814, Lurch, teach many generations about the magnificence of the Brown Bear at Katmai. It would be very nice to see some highlights of Lurch at the falls.

     
  40. August 19, 2016 at 12:44
     

    I'm not ready to accept this is 814 Lurch, although I know it could be, but I do appreciate your information and photos, Ranger Daniel. Nature and wilderness are fascinating and have so much to teach us.

     
  41. August 19, 2016 at 12:21
     

    I am so sad to think of this being 814 Lurch, he had persevered through such adversity...Last year I thought for sure that he was a "goner" with the wounds that he suffered, but he made it. Long Live Lurch...I raise a glass to you "buddy"...

     
  42. August 19, 2016 at 12:17
     

    I'm so sad that this might be Lurch. I have been a fan of his since 2012 and have enjoyed watching him each year. I was so happy last year when he was able to survive and thrive after his injuries. Thanks for sharing this with us.

     
  43. August 19, 2016 at 12:09
     

    I'm so sad for any bear, but will particularly miss Bear 814, he was quite fascinating to watch. Im astonished at the timeline though, according to some of the viewers he was last seen July 9th, in just over a month his bones are so clean! Amazing! How incredible and sad, I will miss seeing him on the cams ☹️🐻❤️

     
  44. August 19, 2016 at 12:03
     

    as I'm not familiar with this bear and just recently new to this website and all the webcams for viewing through Explore.org, thank you for sharing this and what may or may not have happen. It is sad but also just mother nature taking her her family.

     
  45. August 19, 2016 at 12:01
     

    After watching 814 Lurch recover from his injuries in 2015, I'm devastated to think that he might now be gone. A question, please: if this bear died of canine adenovirus, could the virus be transmitted to the Bears that consumed the carcass? And, a necessary follow-up: am I correct in thinking that CAV is not always fatal? Thanks for all you do to help us understand the Bears.

     
  46. August 19, 2016 at 12:01
     

    After watching 814 Lurch recover from his injuries in 2015, I'm devastated to think that he might now be gone. A question, please: if this bear died of canine adenovirus, could the virus be transmitted to the Bears that consumed the carcass? And, a necessary follow-up: am I correct in thinking that CAV is not always fatal? Thanks for all you do to help us understand the Bears.

     
  47. August 19, 2016 at 11:52
     

    Wow. It was curious that Bear 814 seemingly disappeared, and was one of the first male bears to disappear from the river weeks ago. In fact, the last photo I have of him from the cams is from July 5th. This is quite stunning and sad. A reminder that bears live a tough life. Thank you for sharing this incredibly moving story and the photos with us.

     
  48. August 19, 2016 at 11:50
     

    I'm heartbroken to think Lurch is gone. He and bear 868 were such a large part of the Brooks experience.

     
 
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