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Cubdult 503 by Ranger Daniel

Cubdult 503 by Ranger Daniel

The Teenagers Of The Bear World

By “The Artist Formerly Known as Ranger Mike” Fitz

Recently I speculated that 435 Holly and her two cubs might go their separate ways. Since then, park rangers spotted Holly’s adopted cub, 503 Cubadult, wandering alone near the mouth of Brooks River. Neither 435 nor her biological cub were seen nearby. It appears that the Cubadult has become a subadult. He’s now begun a challenging journey that will test his instincts and survival skills.

Subadult bears are those who are independent of their mother, but have not yet fully matured physically or (as I suspect) mentally. They are the teenagers of the bear world. Katmai’s bears typically enter subadulthood in their third or fourth summer. While subadults are typically curious and more playful than adults, they also must establish their own home range and face stiff competition from adult bears. If they encounter their mother, not even she will cut her offspring any slack. (A few years ago, I watched 435 Holly charge 89 Backpack, her cub from a 2006 litter.)

It’s not easy to be a teenager nor is it easy to be a subadult. Subadult bears, like 503, rank lowest in the bear hierarchy. 503 only ranks higher than smaller subadults. At Brooks River, he may wander to the falls, but will not gain the same access to salmon as he did with his mother. Without mom to shadow and protect him, he’s much more vulnerable to attacks from other bears. Accordingly, most subadult bears avoid Brooks Falls. If they do approach, they often do so skittishly, hovering on the river bank or downstream and scavenging partially eaten salmon carcasses.

Subadult males are more likely to disperse away from their mother’s home range than subadult females. While several adult male bears at Brooks River fished there as cubs (i.e. 83, 89, 151, 274, 868), 503 might wander far from Brooks River. On that journey, if he finds enough food and space to survive, it’s certainly possible that we may never see him again.

503’s multi-year subadult journey could be risky and dangerous, but if his instincts and survival skills are up to the task, it may lead to a long life. Perhaps 503 will return to Brooks River and we’ll be witness to the next part of his journey on bearcam. Perhaps not, leaving us to only wonder about his fate.
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  • calliopejane

    Thanks for the blog post. I sure hope 503 does return to Brooks. It would be great to be able to watch his journey into adulthood.

    • Bearluva

      yes, please!

  • Luv2fishdarlene

    TY Mike !!!

  • naturegirl

    Thank you Mike. We are happy that you are still giving us insights on the bears. Hope you are well and enjoying yourself.

  • Rolltide

    Thanks for the great info!!

  • federal way

    Thanks so much for the info Mike. Your blog posts are always appreciated!

  • LisaStL

    Thank you for the post Mike. I hope 503 might remain in Brooks Camp area successfully. (Love your nom de plume heh! Be well.)

  • Pam

    Thanks for the info, let us hope we can continue the story of 503.

  • Deborah

    Great to hear from you Mike. I hope 503 stays around long enough to be part of the DNA study. He is such a tall young bear it would be interesting to know who his father was

  • Marie G

    Interesting to think about how few adult males were also at Brooks Falls as cubs. Even if there are a few more that DNA uncovered, seems like a majority of male cubs don’t stay. 503 was a smart and lucky cub to end up with 435 Holly so I’m hopeful he’s got what it takes to thrive, no matter where he ends up.

    It’s wonderful to get your thoughts on this. I hope you’ll continue to blog about the ongoing tales of the Brooks Falls bears.

    • https://disqus.com/by/Ranger_Mike/ Mike Fitz

      Based on research done at other areas, we have to conclude that many subadults disperse away from Brooks River. However, it’s quite possible that more adult bears than we know of also used the river as cubs. It is very difficult to follow a cub into subadulthood and then adulthood, identifying it each year of the way. Young bears often lack distinctive features like scars that easily set adult bears apart.

      Most, but not all, adult bears identified each year at Brooks River also used the river as subadults or as young adults, which indicates they discovered the river semi-early in the lives at least. Did they first experience the river as cubs? We’ll never be able to know for sure.

      • Yinni Guo

        Hey Ranger Mike,
        Do you think there’re more female subadults stays in the Brooks River area than male subadults? Thank you!

  • Juergen

    TY Mike for an other great blog, you are a wonderful writer!!
    I hope 503 will be still around when cams become live, will be so interesting how it acts at Brooks now between the other bears, and also whats going on with 435 Hollys cub……..also on its own?????

    • https://disqus.com/by/Ranger_Mike/ Mike Fitz

      I’d be very surprised if 435 treated her adopted cub differently than her biological cub even though the adopted cub is a year older. If 503 is on his own, then the biological cub is likely to be on her own too because Holly probably forced them both away at the same time.

      • Juergen

        my thinking goes in this way that 503 decided to leave 435 Holly Fam. to be by its own now…..not that 435 foreced him to leave…..
        so may be 435 and her cub are still together………..you know in Nature all can happens………

        • https://disqus.com/by/Ranger_Mike/ Mike Fitz

          This family has provided us with several exceptions to typical bear behavior, but I have never read any accounts of a cub voluntarily leaving their mother. Emancipation isn’t their choice it seems.

          • Juergen

            hope the cams will tell us about whats going on soon, DM still is live since last night!!!!

  • CatherineB

    Thanks, Mike!

  • Bearluva

    Great to read your blog :) Hope that Magic (503) does appear again, such a special fellow.

  • Mar

    Always enjoy your insights Mike. Thanks so much!

  • JoeBear

    Thanks Mr. Mike! At least 503 had a great mom to teach him survival skills.

  • jstducky

    Thanks Mike! Can’t wait to see how this all unfolds.

  • MChez

    Thank you Mike!

  • kailuagirl

    Hoping he makes it

  • KathCK

    It’s great to have you still observing and writing about the bears. I like your byline, too.

  • Nanikai60

    Thank you for this article and even though you won’t officially be at the park as Ranger Mike, you will always be “Ranger Mike” to all of the bear cam viewers who have followed you on the live chats and blogs. You will always be remembered fondly by everyone so please keep this with you always and forever!

  • GK

    Thanks, Mike. Very interesting stuff.

  • Eliza

    Lovely article. Thank you.

  • Brenda Sandefur

    Thank you Mike! ..so wanted to say Ranger Mike. Your Pen is Mighty! Love all your great knowledge of the Bears..THESE Bears! Take Care~*

  • https://www.pinterest.com/donnab10/ DonnaTBennett

    How’s that beard coming along?

  • Fewsuch

    Thanks for a great article Mike.

  • kenairiver

    Thanks Mike, for this and all your very interesting and informative articles. Love to explore not only behavior but the genetics angle of bear and also fish. The biological triggers that prompt one bear to emancipate their cubs one year, while others wait to the later one. And, it’s fascinating how even the sense of smell drives salmon past one stream to run up another. Have always appreciated your wit and wisdom.

  • federal way

    Mike I really wish you would put together a book about Katmai it sure would make for some fascinating reading and help us to understand the bears more :) Hope the summer is treating you right !

  • http://yodeirdre.blogspot.com/ Mrs Z

    Love your posts! Every one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your knowledge. We’ll miss you and wish you well!

    Take care, buddy. Enjoy!

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