Bears are back in the Question Queue, which reminds me of the claim going around Lawrence Berkeley Lab several decades ago.

The claim was that some mother bears in the Sierra would send their cubs up a tree and onto a smallish branch (a branch too small to carry the weight of an adult bear) to knock down a food bag.

My question is: Is there any evidence that this actually happened, or is this apocrophal?

Devising this strategy seems within the scope of the intelligent and experienced bears in Yosemite, but, as far as I know, no one ever claimed to have actually seen mother and cubs implementing it. The closest we came was seeing an adult climb up to a branch, and, holding on to the trunk, reach out and repeatedly whack the branch until it broke, depositing the food bag (ours!) on the ground. No amount of noise deterred it for a second.

1 Answer 1


Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico with 11,000 visitors (10 days each) had a significant bear problem.

One of the stories, not of cubs, but of yearings, was of the Kamikaze bear.

Standard doctrine was to hang your bear bait bag 12 feet above the ground, 6 feet from the nearest tree. Camps had permanent setups with lines to pulleys hung 25 feet up. Since the group size was 10 people the bags could be quite heavy, even with groups usually only carrying 3-4 days food at any one time.

The Kamikaze bear was a two year old, first summer on his own. The suspicion was that he learned to do this when younger and smaller, and refined the technique as he grew.

Anyway, he would climb the tree until he was well above the cache. Then he would leap out and grab the bag. Nylon cord would stretch like a bungie cord, slowing K.B. down. Once on the ground he would finish ripping the bag open, the empty bag would spring back into the air, and he would snack on the freeze dried whatever.

  • He probably had a mentor (mother?) rather than deriving this on his own, but I am holding off on the green check for a few days to see if there is a verified mother-cub example.. I added the link. I read quite a bit, but hurriedly, on the site, but did not see where this ranch is. Utah?
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 21:33
  • @ab2 - northern New Mexico.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 16:26

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