Outsiders, nature is truly amazing. Biologists at Yellowstone National Park observed a grizzly bear hunting amid a wolf pack. Just to steal the kill in the end.
In a phenomenon that the National Park Service is calling, “kleptoparasitism,” biologists saw the unusual behavior. The term means parasitism by theft. This describes the relationship between the wolves and the bear. Only one side benefits, and it is to the detriment of the side that doesn’t benefit.
The Yellowstone NPS Facebook page posted back in October about the strange event. “On the morning of October 21, 2021, visitors watching wildlife in Yellowstone’s northern range were amazed when they saw an adult grizzly bear seemingly hunting elk with the Junction Butte Wolf Pack.”
The post went on to say, “Wolves and bears typically compete with one another for prey, so why might this be happening?”
That is a good question indeed. These predators should be vying for the prey, but this isn’t actually an example of two species working together.
What you see in the video is the grizzly charging up on the dead elk. Wolves are not going to typically pick a fight with a bear. It just isn’t in their best interest. This is an example of the grizzly capitalizing on that. The food chain in action, y’all.
Why Wolves Back Down From Bears
The mental math that these animals put into these decisions is great when it’s broken down. The folks at the Yellowstone NPS made sure to explain the decisions that are being made by the wolves and the bear. It isn’t as simple as it sounds.
“Typically, wolves will yield to incoming bears. Since hunting is dangerous and often unsuccessful, it’s better for wolves to wait their turn at a carcass that has been usurped by a bear than it is for them to continue hunting. From the bear’s perspective, it takes a lot of energy to follow a wolf pack around, but the reward is high if it successfully takes over a carcass.”
Of course, if either of these Yellowstone inhabitants come across an elk, it means a good meal. For the bear specifically, it means a great source of fat and protein before hibernating for the winter. The park service made a point to mention that the bear has found that the morning hunt increases its chances of enjoying a great meal.
Yellowstone Wolves vs. Grizzlies
In Yellowstone National Park there are plenty of wolves and grizzlies lurking around. Especially from the elk’s perspective. There are 150 grizzlies and 123 wolves, at least, according to the NPS. During the wintertime, wolves will almost exclusively subsist off of elk.
Hopefully, those wolves won’t have their next kill snatched like this one. But, nature is a wild and scary place. You never know what you might see.