Grizzly Bear Grabs a Huge Bull Elk While It Tries to Escape Across a River

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Written by Sharon Parry

Updated: November 10, 2023

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Brown bear in water
© David Rasmus/

It’s all very well catching an elk in the middle of a river – but it leaves you with the problem of getting it onto dry land! In the fascinating clip below, we get to see a large grizzly bear pursuing a bull elk into the water. We learn that the grizzly chased the bear into the Yellowstone River from some grazing meadows. It took about half an hour for the grizzly to direct the huge carcass onto the bank. Hopefully, it then had time to enjoy its meal.

What Do Grizzly Bears Normally Eat?

Despite the impressive hunting skills of the grizzly bear, most of their diet is made up of vegetation. As omnivores, they can digest both plant and animal material. They have a very wide diet that can include anything from marine mammals to plant roots.

In terms of plants, you will see grizzlies eating pine seeds, berries, flowers, and nuts. When it comes to animal protein, this is provided by insects, moths, fish, and mammals.

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Their diet varies according to the time of year and the specific region that they are living in. In Yellowstone where this clip was captured, grizzlies do hunt mature male elk. They have perfected the skills to catch them but only the larger and more skilled grizzlies can bring down such a powerful herbivore.  Other grizzlies would target elk calves which are much easier to catch.

Tule Elk bull standing in the windy California Grizzly Island marshland

Some grizzlies can hunt adult elks.


Is It Normal for Grizzlies to Hunt in Water?

Grizzly bears are surprisingly comfortable in water for such a large animal. They are willing to enter the water to hunt and have excellent swimming skills. However, they cannot swim for very long distances and soon get tired. When they are swimming, they use their paws to propel themselves forward – it looks a bit like a doggy paddle.

Most of the time, they hunt fish from the shallow parts of rivers. Grizzly bear cubs do not enter the water until they are heavier and can do it safely. Smaller cubs are in danger of getting swept away by strong currents. The fat content of the bear’s body and the oil on their coats helps them to stay afloat. They travel at walking speed and get out of the water as soon as they can. It took this bear quite a long time to get back onto the land because it was dragging such a huge elk with it!

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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