On the morning of Oct. 21, visitors watching wildlife in Yellowstone National Park’s Northern Range were amazed at seeing an adult grizzly bear hunting elk with the Junction Butte wolf pack.
Wolves and bears usually fight each other for food, so why might this be happening?
Often wolves will give up their food when a grizzly bear shows up. Since hunting is dangerous and sometimes unsuccessful, it’s better for wolves to wait their turn rather than to continue hunting.
From the bear’s view, it takes a lot of energy to follow a wolf pack running around, but the reward is high if the bear can take over the animal the wolves have killed.
A freshly killed elk is a big source of fat and protein for a grizzly bear getting ready to sleep through the winter. This bear seems to have figured out that following the wolves in the morning would increase its chances of eating a good meal.
Grizzlies aren’t the only animals to steal food when another animal does all of the work. Our ancient ancestors did it. Scientists call this behavior kleptoparasitism, or feeding by theft.
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This behavior does come with risks. The wolves will often try to scare the bear away, running in to threaten an attack. When the bear runs to scare the wolf off, another will run in to grab a bite. It can be a lot of work for both animals.
Photos have been taken of grizzlies sleeping on top of the dead animal to protect it from others getting a bite, which may include coyotes, ravens and eagles.
You can watch a video of the bear running along with the wolves on the Yellowstone National Park Facebook page. It shows how the wolves separate the elk out from a big group to a few, trying to find one weak enough to bring down.
— Yellowstone National Park