In early July, a trail camera in southeastern Alaska captured an exceptionally rare, four-way encounter between a brown bear, a wolf, and a cow moose with a calf in tow. The short clip shows the two apex predators attacking the cow moose and its calf in what almost looks like a coordinated effort.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game captured the rare footage on a trail camera and uploaded it to Facebook on Aug. 28. The camera was set up near Gustavus in Glacier Bay National Park. It was part of a larger wolf predation study, and ADFG researchers had installed the camera along a known travel corridor in the park. They were hoping to learn more about how wolves hunt and what prey they target, but they didn’t expect to see a wolf hunting alongside a brown bear.
At the beginning of the video, the cow moose and its calf walk slowly in front of the trail cam. A pair of glowing eyes are faintly visible in background amid the tall grass, but they’re quickly obscured by a brown bear that runs into the frame and charges the cow. The cow immediately turns toward the bear to defend its calf, rearing up and striking the bear with its front hooves, which gives the calf a chance to run away.
The bear then grabs ahold of the cow, and while the two grapple with one another, the two glowing eyes in the background seize their opportunity. A lone gray wolf joins in the attack and chases after the fleeing moose calf.
At this point, the footage abruptly ends, and it’s unclear what happened to the two moose. A few commenters asked ADFG for an update on Facebook, but the agency explained that it was unknown whether the bear or the wolf was successful.
“Field crews are there now, and they said they aren’t certain what happened after this clip was captured,” the agency said. “We are, however, definitely curious!”
Whether the moose survived is the natural question. What’s even more interesting, however, is the idea of two predator species working together to secure a meal.
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Was the wolf a sneaky loner that had been lurking in the shadows and scavenging off other grizzly bear kills? Or did the grizzly bear know the wolf was there, but didn’t think it was a threat? Would it even be possible for a bear and a wolf to hatch a plan wherein the bear distracts the cow so the wolf can kill the calf? And if so, would the two predators share the spoils?
Several commenters asked these and other similar questions, but we won't have answers unless future sightings give us additional proof. Researchers in Yellowstone National Park have documented instances of grizzlies following wolf packs and stealing their kills. And wolf packs are more than capable of stealing from a grizzly, as other videos recorded in Yellowstone have shown. But competing with another and working in conjunction with each other are two very different things, which is what makes the Alaska footage so intriguing.
“It does look coordinated,” ADFG said of the video, "but impossible to know for sure.”