Eye of the Raven Chris D'Alessandro Dunster Valemount McBride column
Photo courtesy Chris D’Alessandro


The last tale related the humor of an old bear; this story shows the other side of the coin. Even though there is a laugh at the end, it showcases the many facets of bear personality.

I was guiding an American spring bear hunter when I saw one of the most incredible sights I could ever imagine. It was early in the morning and we were set up with our optics watching an avalanche slide, the most prolific site for the fresh young herbs and grasses sought by all bears after a long winter in the den. Way up high on the slide emerged a very large bear from the timber. He was walking very deliberately like he was on a trail and his body posture said it all. He looked like he knew where he was going and his demeanor exuded aggression, dominance and lots of power. He was one of the largest bears I have ever seen, a big breeder boar at the peak of his life striding through his mountain kingdom in the midst of the breeding season. He was exceptionally black but I will never forget in a second he was transformed into a silvertip grizzly as the sun peeked over the mountain behind me and washed him in morning light. The faint air movement of the morning air caused his silver hair to dance like the wind moving through a wheat field.

I followed his ascent for about 15 minutes as he wound through timbered draws and across the large remaining fingers of the large snow drifts that still remained. As he approached an obvious promontory and paused to survey his realm he lifted his large nose up and wagged his head. To my amazement he suddenly whirled around and headed back down at a lope without stepping one foot off the trail he had come up; it seemed he had seen or smelt something that caused this reaction. He headed down and then back up towards a small willow covered bench that lay above him and as I turned my spotting scope to see what was happening I saw flashes of golden/chocolate fur running through the willows but it was impossible to see what it was. My first thought was that it was a cow and calf moose, the color was right and the high bench with good browse is a normal place to see a cow/calf in the late spring.

The big boar roared onto the bench still at a lope and chased his prey down locking on to it with his mouth, as the bench was now above my line of vision all I could see was the top of his back and him spread-eagled across the animal wrestling it into submission with his jaws locked on its neck. The struggling continued for a few minutes and my mouth dropped as he picked the whole animal up by the nape of the neck and literally threw it away from him and with a look of disdain turned around and followed his trail step by step all the way back up his promontory and across the large snow slide that was above it. What had caused my jaw to drop was that what he had picked up and shook like a rag doll was another grizzly about two thirds of his size. As it is not uncommon for a dominant boar to kill a younger rival on his turf; I thought that was what I was seeing but to my great surprise he turned around and very gently and deliberately lay down with his crotch pointing into the snow where he lay cooling his equipment for the next 15 minutes… Slowly the truth of what I had seen dawned on me – as female grizzlies are considerably smaller, and considering the delicate care he was giving his private parts, what I had just viewed was not a murder, but in fact a rape! After aggressively running down and mauling this bystander that lived on his domain, he bit her, chewed her up, bred her and then threw her through the air as if to say “see you next year”  continuing on his search for the next sow. More life and death in the shining mountains!