Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Thought From Experts on Grizzly Weights and Gender

©Bert Gildart: When Bruce Funk, a hunting guide in Alaska who just returned from the Brooks Range, looked at this photo, he immediately said, “Sow.”

Guess, then, that I’m typical of those who see a bear and are impressed by the intensity of the moment rather than by the more dispassionate facts. Big bears can do that to you, and all grizzlies can seem big, particularly when they’re staring right at you. But after talking to a few people who must make proper evaluations for a bear’s safety and a client’s satisfaction, I find that I must modify comments I made in my October 19 post about gender and weight.

Bruce, who is neighbor here in rural Creston, Montana, looked at my pictures and made his instant assessment by looking at several features. “Look at the ears,” said Bruce. “A sow’s ears are located more toward the top of its head while those of a boar are located more on the side. And see how circular this bear’s face is. A boar’s face is more angular, more triangular in shape. This one’s legs are short and squat, so it all starts to add up.”

Bruce said that you also need to look at its neck. “The neck of a boar is longer,” said the hunting guide. “So you put all these things together and I’d say with 95 percent certainly that what you photographed was a sow. It’s a big one alright, but I believe it is a sow.”


Bruce went on to say that the bear appears so heavy because its fur is long at this time of year, and that makes its body weight appear more than what it might actually be. “When you get a bear on the ground,” said Bruce, “and strip the hide from the carcass, bears start to shrink real quick.”

Grizzly bear

Based on short snout and placement of ears, those in the know say this is a sow, weighing about 450 pounds.

Another person whose opinion I greatly respect is that of Rick Millsap. Rick worked for almost 30 years in Glacier National Park and many of those years were spent in bear management in the Many Glacier area. Currently, he’s a backcountry Ranger in Alaska’s Wrangle St. Elias National Preserve, our largest Park Service managed area.


Like Bruce, Rick uses ears in helping him evaluate various features. As a bear ranger, sometimes he’s had to dart bears, and an overdose of the drug could kill it. As a result he has given much thought to the art and says he’s never been off more than 50 pounds off.

“When I look at your bear,” said Rick, referring to the photo which I’d emailed to him, “I see big ears and a relatively small body. It’s about ready to hibernate so it has added another couple hundred pounds. I’d say it could go as large as 450, and that’s really big for a sow in Glacier. “Course I’m not in the field so I’m disadvantaged.”


A file photo from the Wolf Grizzly Bear Discovery Center near YNP, so we know this one is a male. Since you can't get upclose and real personal, look at the elongated snout and ears, which suggests a MALE.


Though I was in the field, still I’m going to defer to Bruce and Rick who both came up with similar thoughts. So now I’ve got to back off from my thoughts about it being a large boar. Bruce and Rick also said that if this is a pregnant female she’ll probably lose several hundred pounds during the course of hibernation. Cubs will be born about February, and if this is, in fact, a lactating female, she’ll loose several hundred pounds by the time she emerges from hibernation. “She’ll void the plug,” said Bruce, “that all bears create in their intestines to keep their digestive systems in order. Then, it will be several weeks before her system is back to normal.”


Bruce said that she’ll probably lose lots more weight during hibernation so that by May, she might only weigh 300 pounds. Bruce thought this was a bear well into her prime, making her about 10 years old.

So with all that information, I’m convinced, my grizzly of several weeks ago was a female that could have weighed between 450 and 500 (give me that as I was in the field), but what do you think?

What we all agreed upon is that the bear was not an angry grizzly bear. She had no cubs with her and she may well have acquired some fear of people through aversive conditioning regularly practiced by rangers in Glacier. What’s more we had not surprised her. However, Bruce said I was certainly smart to have my bear spray out and ready. Rick concurred, saying he’d used bear spray a number of times, and that a healthy blast had once turned a charging bear.

Lots you can learn by talking to good field people.




*Harpers Ferry





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