By “The Artist Formerly Known as Ranger Mike” Fitz
Since the bearcam has gone live, bear #83 has spent significant time fishing at Brooks Falls. This year he has a sizable wound on his left shoulder. Will this injury hinder his success at Brooks Falls or his overall survival?
Brown bears, especially adult males, commonly sport open wounds and scars. These are especially visible in early and mid summer when they shed their fur. A male bear’s wounds and scars are most often the product of combat with other bears over access to food, appropriation of food, or the opportunity to mate with a female bear. At Brooks River, physical conflict between male bears is more common in late spring and early summer when the bears’ mating season peaks and they encounter each other in close quarters at Brooks Falls.
83 was first identified as an adult male in 2008. His past history shows that wounds are nothing new for him and that his latest injury is a normal part of life, something he’s dealt with before and will deal with again. In 2012, he hosted a very deep, open wound on his right shoulder. In 2015, he had a larger, but more superficial wound at the top of his hips. Now, minor scars are the only evidence he persevered through the injuries. (For more information on bear 83’s life history download the Brooks River bears ebook.)
Every wild bear must heal from physical trauma at some point in their lives, and bears in Katmai National Park receive no veterinary care. As wild animals, they deal with injury and pain in the only way they know how—by persevering through it. (Read other stories about bears who have healed from significant injury.) While we don’t know how 83 was injured this year (or in 2012 or 2015), his wounds and scars show that he’s living the life of an adult male bear, a life where wounds are common, scars are abundant, and competition is stiff.