Chasing Bigger Bears

October 07, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

435 Holly's adopted yearling chases 500
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!

435 Holly's adopted yearling chases 500

435 Holly's adopted yearling chases 500

435 Holly's adopted yearling chases 500

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.

bears, bear, cubs, yearling, subadult, Brooks River

12 Comments Comments icon

  1. RapidTone
    May 20, 2018 at 11:54

    Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers

  2. November 30, 2015 at 10:55

    @riley: The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was named for the thousands of fumaroles (volcanic gas vents) that once shot out of the earth there. More information can be found at

  3. October 14, 2015 at 06:33

    why is the valley of ten thousand smokes called the valley of ten thousand smokes?

  4. October 09, 2014 at 03:50

    Sounds like a subadult is in the same position of the hierarchy as a post-doc!

  5. October 09, 2014 at 03:26

    Indy 500 might be at the lowest position in bear hierarchy, but she sure is at the top position in the heart of Katmai's august visitors. We've been there at this moment and she was the only bear around Brooks camp. She was a real star !! very energetic and very funny. I'm very glad to see her in good shape (she seems to have gain lots of weight) thanks for the video

  6. October 08, 2014 at 05:33

    @JaniePooh: Thanks for that link. In that footage, it does look like 500 is testing 171. Eventually 171 gets intolerant and drives her away. It doesn’t look like 500 wants to play with 171’s cub.

  7. October 08, 2014 at 03:59

    Hey Ranger Mike. You mentioned you hadn't seen the encounter the next day with 500 Indy and 171 and her COY. Here's the link for that. :-)

  8. October 07, 2014 at 11:17

    What a transformation in such a short time, from fearful cub treeing itself and being abandoned.... to bold inquisitiveness and even bolder chasing... poor Holly was really having a hard time of it!

  9. October 07, 2014 at 03:00

    Appreciate your insights on this chase, Ranger Mike. The very next day 500 Indy met up with 171 and COY and a different series of events played out. 500 kept hanging back, even going back down the road toward them a few times to get a closer look at 171 and COY. 500 has also had up close and personal experiences with 813's Family earlier on. It's fascinating to watch 500's curiosity about other families in particular. I get the sense she's still adjusting to life on her own sans companions.

  10. October 07, 2014 at 02:52

    Thanks for the fascinating insight into the yearling's behavior. I am so thrilled he is still with Holly.

  11. October 07, 2014 at 02:51

    Thank you Ranger Mike! Great to see the video you captured!

  12. GK
    October 07, 2014 at 02:29

    Thanks, Ranger Mike, for explaining this. I admit to being a bit confused as to who the cubs were chasing when I first saw this video.

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