grizzly bear in stream

All photos: Jaymi Heimbuch

Massive. Powerful. Fast.

The coastal grizzly bear of Alaska is one of the largest subspecies of brown bear with males growing to more than 700 pounds and standing more than 6 feet tall. The only subspecies that grows larger is the famed Kodiak bear. The secret to the size of coastal brown bears is fairly simple: they eat — a lot. With an incredible sense of smell and a broad diet, coastal grizzlies can feast on anything from grasses and berries to clams and salmon, their most famous food source. Salmon is a protein and fat source that grizzlies living farther inland don't have access to, which means they can't grow as large as their cousins living along the ocean's edge.

During the late summer, as salmon are coming in from the sea and swimming up rivers to spawning grounds, coastal grizzlies enjoy the biggest feast of the year. Splashing through rivers chasing fish, coastal grizzlies gorge on salmon to store up as much fat for winter as possible. This is one of the best times of year for these bears, and witnessing their feasts (and food comas) is quite the experience. Enjoy these images of coastal grizzly bears in the middle of the salmon runs in Alaska's Katmai National Park. 

grizzly on river bank

Coastal grizzly with mountains in background

coastal grizzly with salmon in mouth

coastal grizzly close-up

coastal grizzly in the river waves with salmon

grizzly gallops through water

grizzly sleeps after feeding

bear looks into the camera

grizzly eats a salmon

grizzly snoozes with bird in foreground

grizzly walks

wet grizzly bear in profile

grizzly bear in the grass

grizzly bear snoozes in the sand

grizzly scratches its ear with back paw

wet grizzly gallops

Long view of two grizzly bears

grizzly bear seen from behind with mountains in background

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Coastal grizzly bears enjoy the salmon run
Coastal grizzly bears are big for a simple reason: they eat — a lot.