Hey Lurch! What's Up with You?

July 02, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

So far this summer, 814 Lurch looks and behaves differently than years past. So, what’s up with Lurch?

814 is a large adult male who was first identified as a young adult in 2005. A conservative age estimate would place him around 15-16 years old. In the past, 814 has been an avid fish thief and became somewhat (in)famous for killing 435 Holly’s spring cub in 2009. He’s also cached and fed on dead bears, although we don’t know if he killed those bears or merely appropriated the food source from another bear.

Young adult bear standing in Brooks River
814 Lurch was first identified at Brooks River in 2005. Here he stands in Brooks River in 2006. NPS photo.

A couple of weeks ago, he returned to Brooks Falls without his right ear. In the spring, adult males sometimes engage in vicious fights over food or females. No one witnessed the battle where 814’s ear became a casualty, but it is reasonable to assume it was within a month of his arrival at Brooks River.  

large bear with missing right ear sitting in river
When 814 first appeared at Brooks River on June 18, it was clear that he had recently lost his ear. NPS/M. Fitz.

Beyond his missing ear, 814 displays other injuries that he will have to tolerate and persevere through—such as a foot/ankle/leg injury. Last evening, I watched him walk and it was readily apparent that his left rear foot was swollen and that he was favoring that leg. I did not see any visible injuries to the leg, only a swollen paw.

bear walking on rocks in river
Hobbled by a leg or foot injury, 814 can still easily surmount obstacles like Brooks Falls when necessary. NPS/M. Fitz.

These injuries certainly won’t help 814 compete at Brooks Falls this summer, but he’s still a large adult male. Based on that fact alone, he will maintain relatively high standing in the bear hierarchy. However, during the few times I have observed him, he has been unwilling to stand his ground against or challenge other large males like 747 and 856. He also has not attempted to steal fish from other bears. Last night, for example, he clearly avoided 747. Last year, he didn’t make that effort. He didn’t need to. He might have even tried to steal 747’s fish. Perhaps he has slipped slightly down the bear hierarchy ladder.

Here’s another story, it seems, of a bear’s struggle to survive in a harsh world. Other bears aren’t going to give 814 any breaks. They have to worry about feeding themselves. Lurch is a big, experienced bear though. We’ve certainly witnessed bears recover from more severe injuries than 814’s, but he’ll be disadvantaged until his mobility improves. How will the story conclude? We’ll have to watch and see.

A version of this post originally appeared on July 2, 2015 in thebearcam chat on explore.org.

bearcam, Brown Bear, survival, injury, Brooks River

Last updated: July 2, 2015

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