In the Field

Holyfield – Battle-Scarred Alaskan Brown Bear

Holyfield the earless Alaskan brown grizzly bear of the Katmai coast

Bears of all different species sometimes get in incredibly violent fights with each other. While younger bears grapple and spar more out of playfulness and to practice their skills as they strive to establish their dominance in the local bear hierarchy, more mature bears get into some very serious battles for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a female bear (known as “sows”) defending her babies from a cub eating male bear (known as “boars”), a fight over a food source, a territorial dispute, or two big boars mixing it up over breeding rights during the mating season, bears can really end up taking a beating. Some bears die as a result of such battles, while others accumulate many scares and injuries. A common injury that both female and males bears sustain is that of damaged ears. Some bears have ears that sort of flop over on their head due to the cartilage being torn and other bears have ears that have essentially been ripped off chewed their head completely.

Such was the case with an Alaskan brown bear I had the privilege of photographing recently, who, as I was informed by a fellow photographer, was known as “Holyfield,” in reference to the former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield, who had his ears ferociously mangled in a fight with an enraged Mike Tyson.

Evander Holyfield getting his ear mangled by an enraged Mike Tyson.
Evander Holyfield getting his ear mangled by an enraged Mike Tyson.

When I first spotted Holyfield way upriver, something just didn’t look right. And, as he got closer, it was obvious as to why. Both of his ears were completely missing! It appeared that Holyfield was a bear that had definitely been in his share of fights over the years. Thankfully, Holyfield was more interested in fishing than fighting on the day I encountered him. With summer rapidly coming to a close and the lean months ahead, he had many calories to consume in preparation for his long winter nap.

Holyfield had a pretty good day of fishing and scarfed down many a fresh pink salmon throughout the afternoon. And, while there were plenty of other bears around, he avoided getting into any fights and kept his cool.

Click here to watch the video of Holyfield the brown bear in action!

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