Having just returned from a trip to Alaska, I can unequivocally state that grizzly bears do climb trees.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that black bears are agile climbers, but grizzlies rarely scamper up trunks. In fact, some experts will even advise climbing high in a tree to escape a grizzly that is deemed likely to charge.
A recent experience at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve has changed my thinking on that. While eating dinner one night in the camp dining room, a grizzly bear walked by the large windows. To my surprise, it promptly climbed a tree. I have the photos to prove it.
The next day, out on the platforms near the falls, I watched as a mother grizzly safeguarded one of her three cubs by placing it in a tree.
The National Park Service (NPS) at Denali National Park and Preserve states that young grizzlies can climb trees as effectively as most black bears, but adult grizzly bears have more difficulty. Most grizzlies can climb a tree if it has ladder-like branches, although their weight and claw structure prevents them from climbing as efficiently as black bears. Contrary to some advice, the NPS at Denali suggests that you NOT climb a tree to avoid a bear: three of the twenty-three documented bear-induced human injuries in Denali involved grizzlies pulling humans out of trees.
Watch the video below from Yosemite National Park of an athletic, adult black bear climbing a tree. Then, take a look at some of my very recent shots of a nimble grizzly that just happened to prefer a high spot outside my dining room window about a week ago.
It’s all part of what makes an adventure in Alaska so remarkable.