04.13.08–Athabascan Word of the Week–Bear

grizzly_bear_b&w

blackbear = shirs, yudesla= Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan Dialect

(blackbear) female = yosghwne = Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan Dialect

(blackbear) yearling = sojiye = Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan Dialect

grizzly = tsone, chone, gaga = Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan Dialect

Brown Bear (Grizzly Bear): Ursus arctos.

Order: Carnivora (flesh-eating mammals).

Family: Urisdae (bears).

Range and Habitat: widespread throughout Alaska including many offshore islands; alpine meadows, prairies, and forested areas from sea level to above timberline.

Size and Weight: 8 to 11 feet; 800 to 1,600 pounds.

Diet: omnivorous, including nearly any edible material, fish, small and some large mammals, birds, insects, fruits, berries, nuts and succulent vegetation.

Sounds: mostly silent, but may grunt, growl, chop jaws, and click teeth together when annoyed or alarmed.

If you are looking down at tracks over a foot long that look remotely like the one illustrated above, you’ve gotten yourself into brown bear country. Most people are beginning to agree that the hundred–odd variations on the ‘large brown hairy creature’ theme are all the same animal. The brown bears of the Alaskan coast tend to be larger and more reclusive, while those of the inland areas, commonly called grizzlies, are slightly smaller and generally more aggressive. But all brown bears have certain things in common; they are large beasts with prominent shoulder humps; they are very territorial; their behavior is unpredictable under the best circumstances; their eyesight is poor; they are faster and stronger than you’d expect, and they’ve killed and eaten animals larger than you.

In brown bear country, sane people walk slowly, talk and whistle, shake cans full of pebbles, and tie bells on their packs. Prolonged observations are best conducted from trees, as brown bear don’t climb.

Tracks like these found along the Arctic coast during mid–summer may have been made by a polar bear, the great white bear we all known from zoos and movies, who sometimes comes ashore from the pack ice. The polar bear is the most carnivorous Alaskan bear and can be very aggressive and dangerous, but it so rarely ashore as to pose very little danger to most humans. But be wary, always.

Cited From: Animal Tracks of Alaska, written by Chris Stall. Published by The Mountaineers.

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