A shocking and rare event unfolded on a quiet roadside in Canada, where the relentless power of nature was captured in all its raw and brutal glory. The scene was nothing short of surreal—a grizzly bear, an apex predator of the wild, locked in a gruesome spectacle with the lifeless body of a black bear. This astonishing encounter between two formidable predators offers a gripping glimpse into the unforgiving world of the Canadian wilderness.
The astounding footage, which unveils the brutal reality of the animal kingdom, emerged on social media, thanks to Susan Griffith from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada. Her Facebook post, dated August 30, described the event as “definitely one of the craziest things we have seen on a drive home.” It’s not every day that one witnesses such a stark confrontation between these two bear species.
The setting for this dramatic encounter was the Canadian Rocky Mountains, a vast wilderness that straddles the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Here, amidst the rugged beauty of the mountains and dense forests, both black bears (Ursus americanus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis), a subspecies of the formidable brown bear family, call this region home.
Grizzly bears, renowned as apex predators, possess an intriguing duality as prolific scavengers. They possess the uncanny ability to feast on whatever sustenance the wild offers, including the flesh of other bears and even their own kind. In areas where these two bear species overlap, grizzly bears have been known to hunt and consume black bears.
The gripping footage posted by Griffith captures the grizzly bear in a primal act, seemingly biting into the black bear’s head, back, and throat while dragging the lifeless carcass up a hill. However, the pivotal question lingers—did the grizzly bear deliver the fatal blow, or did it stumble upon a black bear that had already met its demise?
Frank T van Manen, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, acknowledges the scarcity of estimates regarding the frequency of grizzly-black bear interactions. Still, he emphasizes that such encounters are not uncommon. Grizzly bears, with their imposing presence, occasionally target larger prey like elk or even bison. This includes encounters with American black bears. In the case at hand, the smaller size of the black bear offered no match for the might of an adult grizzly.
Van Manen sheds light on the intricacies of bear behavior, particularly during the period of hyperphagia, or extreme hunger, when bears diligently accumulate fat reserves for their impending hibernation. Consuming a black bear with ample fat storage aligns perfectly with their life history perspective.
While the phenomenon of grizzly bears consuming black bears is known in this part of Canada, actual footage of these encounters remains a rarity. It was in August 2022 that hikers in Banff National Park stumbled upon a grizzly bear feasting on the remains of a black bear. Steve Michel, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, noted that it was the fourth documented case of its kind, shedding light on the notion that such events might be more common than believed but often go unnoticed in the vast wilderness.
The sobering reality of the wild was brought to light in 2018 when a grizzly bear was filmed attacking a mother black bear and her cubs in a den in Alberta. The male grizzly’s relentless pursuit led to the tragic demise of one of the cubs, as the others fled in desperation.
In the words of Chris Servheen, a former Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, predators engage in such acts not for amusement, profit, or malevolence. It is, fundamentally, a survival instinct—a means to secure sustenance in the relentless quest for survival in the unforgiving realm of nature.