WATCH: Brown Bear Filmed Swimming in the Open Ocean Between Islands in the Pacific

by Amy Myers

While passing between the Shumagin Islands of Alaska, a boat crew caught sight of a brown bear making its way through the chilly North Pacific waters.

Typically, we see brown bears swim in rivers or fish-filled ponds – waters that the massive animals can paddle across in just a few strokes. But rarely do we see them making treks across much larger bodies of water.

Still, this bear seemed determined to get across to the next island, steadily swimming beside the boat. Naturally, the passing crew slowed down to create a smaller wake for the agile creature. The bear kept on its route, eyes set on the land in front of it.

Watch the strange moment below.

The sighting may seem odd to those of us that usually see bears through the trees. But according to the posting account, Nature Is Metal, it’s not all that uncommon to see them in the ocean.

“Bears have a similar body shape and physiology to dogs, so they swim in a fashion similar to the “doggy paddle” that dogs use to propel themselves in the water,” the caption read. “As they are primarily land-based, brown bears are not very efficient swimmers, but they will traverse the aqueous space between these Alaskan islands when motivated to do so.”

North America Nature backs up this theory, noting that bystanders have witnessed black and brown bears swimming between islands as far as 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) apart. As the Instagram post mentioned, these creatures aren’t the most gifted swimmers. Observers have described their pace as “walking speed” through the water.

Why Do Bears Swim Across Open Waters?

Obviously, when it comes to polar bears, the motivation to swim at great lengths is pretty clear. With fellow arctic animals available on both land and sea, these animals have to be flexible with their hunting maneuvers.

As it turns out, the reason behind black and brown bears’ aquatic journeys is also food-driven.

“The reward they seek is a more abundant or different variety of food, but to reach these treasures they must risk potential exhaustion before they reach their destination or worse – falling prey to an ocean predator, like orcas,” the Instagram post explained.

Beyond a wider variety of vegetation, bears will also travel between islands to follow migrating salmon, particularly in the springtime. While these hungry predators find salmon in streams, they’ll swim across islands in order to find the best source for them.

There have been a few instances, though, when observers have seen bears swim for no practical reason. According to the National Park Service, black bears, in particular, will sometimes just swim for fun.