Last updated: April 14, 2015
Screen Capture from NPS video.
Who's on bottom of the bear hierarchy? Young subadult bears, like bear 500, that's who. On Sunday, October 5, part of an extended chase was seen on the River Watch bearcam. 435 Holly’s adopted yearling chased subadult bear 500 while Holly’s spring cub and Holly herself tried to keep up. Please watch this video of the chase.
I was on the wildlife viewing platform at the mouth of the Brooks River and was lucky enough to witness the chase. From what I was able to observe, it appears that Holly's adopted yearling decided to assert itself over 500. The yearling initiated the interaction several minutes prior when he approached 500. This was more likely a playful approach from the yearling, but 500 wanted no part of it, perhaps because the yearling was being trailed by Holly. When the interaction began, Holly was very close to her yearling and 500 didn’t want to be close to the family. When she ran, the yearling pursued. Holly followed, but she was just trying to keep up with her cubs!
Subadult bears, like 500, hold the lowest position in the bear hierarchy. They are easily displaced by other bears, as this interaction demonstrates. If you are a cub, you often hold a higher position in the hierarchy than subadults simply because of your mother’s close proximity.
Times have certainly changed for the adopted yearling. Shortly after it was abandoned in July, he ran from everything. Now, he’s looks confident, well fed, and able to test some boundaries. For bear 500, she’s going through a stage of life that all bears must endure to reach adulthood. Holly’s adopted yearling may be asserting itself now, but once it is driven away by Holly, it will experience everything that 500 is going through now.