Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and salmon

In recent email Jim Robertson wrote the following (see below). It was so interesting I decided to post it (with his kind permission). My, but he has some great photographs!

Ralph Maughan

I witnessed a couple of wolves (two females from a pack of eight) join in on the
action at Fish Creek near Hyder, AK in 2001. It was the fist year that
wolves had been seen fishing in that area. They turned out to be better at
it than either the black bears or grizzlies who had fished that spawning
stream for years.

While the black bears would wait along the banks and make a lunge for a
salmon when they got a good fix on one, and the grizzlies would wade up into
a school and herd the fish into the shallows, the wolves would stand in the
middle of the creek and watch intently for a likely target. Their vision
was clearly better than the bears’ and they went after the fish with much
more accuracy. Nothing hap-hazard about their efforts.

They made sport of chasing the black bears off and liked to test the
grizzlies, but one playful yearling grizzly did send them running for a

Here are some of my photos of the wolves fishing at Hyder:
from my wolf page

and here’s some grizzly photos:

It seems likely that wolves could take advantage of the bounty of salmon
spawning streams more often, if they felt they were in a protected area like
Katmai. Sadly, the bear viewing area at Hyder is closed to hunting bears,
but not wolves. That winter some or all of that wolf pack were killed by
locals. Now the only sign of them is a hand made sign on a power pole
advertising wolf hides for sale. There would be a lot more wolves around
Katmai if it weren’t for trapping. The first year I visited there (1978), I
heard that a pack of 7 resident wolves were trapped when they wandered
outside the park boundaries the previous winter.

Luckily for grizzlies, most of the trapping goes on after they’ve gone into

Jim Robertson



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  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    A wolf that I saw several years ago in Idaho ended up dying from eating salmon on the South Fork of the Salmon River. It died from “salmon poisoning” also known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca which only kills canines. Don’t feed your dog uncooked fish.

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    BTW, nice photo’s

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I wonder why these Alaskan wolves don’t get Neorickettsia helminthoeca?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan