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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Behind Her Back

A grizzly sow serenely grazes on grasses and sedges in a meadow, unaware of–or not caring about–her two cubs clowning around behind her back.

Sow and cub clamming 3

A cub mirrors its mother’s actions locating, digging up and eating razor clams, while both of them are reflected in the shallow water covering the mudflats at low tide.

Sow and cub clamming 2

A grizzly sow teaches one of her cubs how to locate, dig and open its own razor clams.  The fewer clams mom needs to dig up for the kids, the more she gets to eat herself.  Meanwhile, the cubs learn valuable survival skills as they fill their bellies.  A win-win.

Sow and cub clamming

A grizzly sow teaches one of her cubs how to open a razor clam.


If you’ve ever dug for clams in the mudflats, you know clamming is a dirty job.  And as you can see in the image above, it’s no different for bears.

This grizzly sow took her two cubs clamming every day that the tides were favorable.  They would spend a couple of hours at a time digging and eating clams.

The razor clams in this part of the Alaskan coast grow to be about six inches long.  The clams are the bears primary source of protein during the summer until the salmon begin to run.

Adult grizzlies can appear clumsy and ungainly while they’re walking around, but they can locate, dig up and open clams with the utmost grace and finesse.  There’s more dexterity in those huge claws and teeth than you’d think!

playing cubs

Since grizzly bear cubs don’t eat anywhere near as much as their mothers do, they have plenty of time to goof off while the sow is foraging.  All the play I witnessed between these two cubs was gentle wrestling interspersed with an occasional soft nip.  Often they would be rolling together in the tall grass, and all we would see was an occasional paw sticking up.  But the patient photographer who remained ready to shoot would periodically be rewarding by one or both cubs coming up for air, as in this shot.


clamming grizzlies

A grizzly sow and her cub enjoy clamming on the mudflats of the Alaska coast.

cub meadow

A grizzly cub takes a pause from its grazing to check out the funny photographers.  I’m not sure who was more interested in whom…

cub with driftwood

There was no way a bear cub could pass up this tempting piece of driftwood, despite the repercussions for not staying close to mom as she walked along the beach.  After all, it had cub-height branches to hang from and climb up on and bounce around on…it’s as if it was custom-designed to keep bear cubs entertained for hours!

Mom was having none of it, however.  She never slowed down as she was crossing the beach.  The cubs snuck in a few seconds of play, then had to run to catch up with mom again, who was in an unusually bad mood today, and not tolerating her youngsters’ mischievousness…much to the disappointment of both the cubs as well as the photographers!