I don’t think bears search for food in the tree tops much. They would be focused on what’s on the ground or within arms reach. Conifers don’t have much to offer in the way of Fall color and the Aspen and Birch leaves turn yellow and then brown and then fall off, all within a day or two. So if you want to observe the Autumn colors in Denali, look down like the bears.
Around 300 to 350 grizzly bears live in the park on the north side of the Alaska Range. You can see them on open tundra, and along the gravel bars of streams and rivers. About 80% of a Denali grizzly’s diet is roots, berries, bulbs, tubers and fresh vegetation. They have long claws for digging. They also eat ground squirrels, caribou, moose and sheep when they can catch them. Along the coast, their larger cousins eat a lot of salmon but there are none here. Grizzlies hibernate from October to April so September is their last chance to build fat reserves before the long sleep.
It’s hard to believe that these would feed a 600 pound grizzly, let alone fatten him. The name “bearberry” for the plant derives from the edible fruit which is a favorite food of bears. The fruit, also called bearberries, are edible and are sometimes gathered for food. The leaves of the plant are used in herbal medicine.
I’ve a few more photos of Denali that I’ll share later but tomorrow I think I’ll spend a little time on Glacier Bay National Park.