Wednesday, May 27, 2009
On Tuesday Mark and I took the 4 brown bear skulls that we found while on survey into the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G)to get them officially registered. Legally, even if you just find a skull you still have to get it registered. John Crye of ADF&G measured each of the skull and gave each one a tag to certify that they had been registered. While there we also learned a lot of cool stuff about bear skulls and bear behavior.
We learned that the big skull I found was a very old and large sow. Her molars were very worn down and John estimates that she was 12 to 13 when she died. She measured around 24 1/2 which is very large for a sow. The cub skull that I found nearby (see bottom photo) was probably her cub and both were killed at the same time by a large boar. This would have happened late last fall while the cub and her sow were catching salmon at the nearby creek. The cub was about 10 months old. Other bears ate the two and scattered their bones about around a 100 yard area. This is a fairly typical occurrence and is the cause of death for most cubs. It is also why juvenile bears hang out around human camps. They know that big boars will stay away from human camps, and that the human camps offer protection.
Mark's big boar turned out to be HUGE. It measured 29 1/8 which would put it in the record book. It also displays the 'heart shaped' orbital arch that trophy bear hunters treasure and which is a famous characteristic of Karluk bears. It's why the Karluk Lake area is synonymous with trophy brown bear hunting. His bear was also a young bear when it died - only about 10 years old and the molars are not worn down. When Mark found this bear all its bones were in place and had not been scattered. We learned that other bears will not scavenge and eat a monster bear. Even in death, other bears want nothing to do with him. It's a respect thing.
John told us that bear cannibalism around Karluk lake is pretty high because there are so many strange bears coming to the area. The bears do not know each other as well - social skills are not quite what they should be! We found where a bear had been cached by another bear and later eaten (third photo). The bear had been covered with a pile of sticks and grass - you could still see the hole in the middle of the pile where the bear had lain. By the by, this is a very hairy find and you should immediately back off when you find such a cache because bears will defend it. This particular bear had been scattered over about a 1/2 mile. He/she obviously was not very well respected. Patrick