Watch an Injured Elk Outsmart a Grizzly Bear, Send It Tumbling, and Escape to a Nearby River

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: October 12, 2022
© Mary Stample/
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This is a fascinating, albeit half-hearted attempt by a grizzly to bring down an injured elk that ultimately ends in failure. So, let’s analyze exactly what is going on in this short video.

Grizzlies Hunting Elk

Grizzly bears are opportunistic feeders and are fairly versatile when it comes to sourcing their meals. They are omnivores and their digestion can cope with both plant and animal sources of nutrition. Most bears have a predominantly vegetarian diet. They like to snack on berries and fruits as well as shoots and roots. However, they do also need some meat in their diet which can come from insects, small mammals, and fish. Bears will also occasionally tackle a larger animal and this is what this grizzly is attempting to do.

Chasing down a fit, adult elk would be a challenge for a grizzly as elk are large animals that can run fast. A calf or an ill or injured elk would be easier and would involve less effort from the bear. Despite the fact that this elk is injured (we are told that in the video notes) they still manage to keep running as the bear lunges at them. The elk has enough strength to drag the bear towards the river. This particular river is very fast flowing and the bear makes a split-second decision to release the elk and climb back to the safety of the river bank.

Grizzlies and Elk as Swimmers

It’s interesting to watch the decisions that these two animals are making. Adult male elk can run at up to 40mph and jump 8 feet vertically. Brown bears are one of their main predators and elk use their athleticism to try to evade this threat. Elks are also excellent swimmers. They have hollow hairs and body fat that insulates them from cold waters. Their migration routes often require them to cross swollen rivers which they learn to do as calves. A typical elk tactic is to head for a river when they are being pursued and, because of their amazing endurance, choose to stay in the water for some time. This elk decides that the water is safer than being on the land with the bear.

Brown bears can also swim but they are not that keen on it. They use a doggy paddle style stroke to propel themselves along but their bulk means that it uses up a lot of energy and they could not keep this up over long distances in rough water. You can see that this bear is eager to leave the water as quickly as possible which is probably the wise choice!

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elk in water
© Mary Stample/

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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