Carol and Queen

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         Carol (above) and Queen were the first grizzly bear mothers that we met in Hallo Bay.  We went on our first camping trip with a bear viewing guide, Brad Josephs, who had known these two bears for over five years.  This was great, because Brad was able to give us a history of these bears and their unusual relationship to one another. 


It was a rainy, foggy, misty day when we set out for the very first time into the meadows of Hallo Bay.  We came upon a group of four grizzly bears- two mothers and two very large third year cubs.  The mothers were chewing on grass as the youngsters wrestled.  Brad got excited when he realized it was Queen and Carol, and explained that Queen was an older mother, very experienced, extremely confident, and that she was really comfortable being around people.  Brad has seen her mother several generations of cubs, and she even raised two cubs that were born completely white.  I had seen pictures in a book on bears of two grizzly bear cubs, white as polar bears, wrestling.  Brad knew the photographer, and said these were Queenís cubs. 


Queen herself was massive.  She was one of the largest, most muscular, strong, stout, fat female grizzly bears I have ever seen.  Her front legs had the imposing girth that you see on larger male grizzly bears and she was very tall.  Her belly, although it was only June, already hung close to the ground.  Her fur was gorgeous, light brown, long and full.  Her head was massive and surrounded by a mane of thick, golden fluff.  I also noticed she had a long scar across the bridge of her nose. 


Carol was the other full grown female bear in the group.  She was blonder than Queen and slightly smaller and thinner.  She had a long nose and her face wasnít as round or heart shaped as some of the other grizzly bears in the area, but longer and thinner.  Her cub (a female) was a spitting image of her, and looked like a miniature replication of her mother.  At certain angles they both had a slightly goofy appearance, perhaps due to their long snouts.  Carol seemed to be keeping a keen eye on the youngsters, while Queen wandered further away from the group to graze.  Queen appeared to be ignoring the rambunctious cubs.  Queenís cub was a male, and larger than Carolís cub.  He was a solid brown color, while Carolís cub was quite blond.  This kept in line with Bradís observations about  grizzly bear color patterns in Hallo Bay.  It appears that most of the female grizzly bears in Hallo Bay are blond, while most of the males are brown. 


Although smaller, Carolís cub attacked her playmate trying to get him to chase her.  Tumbling, wrestling, kicking balls of fur, they rolled their way around the meadow.  Suddenly, the larger cub pinned down the female, and Carol had enough.  She charged towards the cubs letting out loud puffs of angry air from her nose and mouth, woofing at the cubs to tell them to knock it off.  This caused Queen to lift her head from her meal of grass, glance in the direction of the other bears, and let out a few loud woofs herself.  Brad immediately started laughing, and pointing at the skirmish telling us that this is what always happens when the cubs play together.  First Brad explained that Carol and Queen spend lots and lots of time together, and could even be characterized as co-parenting with each other.  Brad said he has noticed over the years that Queen is an older bear who doesnít like to play with her cubs very much.  Since she has only one cub, who doesnít have a biological sibling to play with, one advantage of Queen and Carol pairing up is that the single cubs have a playmate their own age.  The two cubs have grown up together and play and spend time together as if they are siblings.  While Queen mostly ignores their antics without concern, Brad said that Carol is over protective and constantly jumps in to defend her cub when the play fighting gets too rough. 


Brad also described an incident that had occurred several days before.  Much like this scene, Carol jumped in woofing to defend her cub.  Then Queen got annoyed, and jumped in to defend her cub, and Carol and Queen ended up getting into a fight.  (Lucky for bears, ďfightingĒ usually only means bluff charges and lots of noise, but rarely any physical contact).  Smiling, Brad said that this is what usually happens between these two mothers who have known each other for so long that it has become routine for the cubs to fight, and then the motherís to jump into the fray.  Satisfied that her cub was ok, Carol went back to grazing, and the cubs went back to wrestling.  Although Carol was the over protective parent, we quickly noticed that her cub was the more aggressive of the two.  Carolís cub sprinted around the meadow, enticing her friend to chase her.  When that didnít work, she would leap on top of him to start a game of play fighting.  Carol didnít seem to realize that her cub was definitely the instigator amongst the two exuberant youngsters. 


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© 2008 Jessica Teel