Yellowstone expert weighs in on who wins in a fight: grizzly or gorilla?

Yellowstone National Park biologist Kerry Gunther weighs a bear cub during field research.

NPS photo

Yellowstone National Park biologist Kerry Gunther weighs a bear cub during field research.

If you’ve ever wondered who would win in a fight—a grizzly bear or gorilla—one expert from Yellowstone National Park advises betting on the grizzly.

That’s just one of the fun exchanges from a discussion held Wednesday on Twitter, where Kerry Gunther, who leads Yellowstone National Park’s bear management program, answered questions as part of an ongoing series called Ask a Scientist.

Gunther also addressed questions about climate change, the Endangered Species Act and other serious topics, but it was his backing of grizzlies over gorillas that jumped out as a new insight not previously shared with the public.

“So we are doing a research project in science,” asked student Logan Bahm. “I know this fight would never happen but in a one on one matchup, who would win.. A grizzly bear or a silver back gorilla?”

Gunther said that he had no disrespect (apparently for gorillas), but that he’d put his money on the grizzly bear, which has strength, teeth and claws.

The park’s top bear biologist continued his perhaps biased backing of Yellowstone’s big, brown bears when Twitter user David Shaw asked whether grizzlies and wolves ever fought, and which would be considered the “top predator.”

 

Gunther conceded that wolves were “more efficient” as predators, but noted that grizzlies often take the spoils of wolves’ hunts away from them, making grizzlies the superior predator.

He also answered a question from Twitter user Charissa about whether grizzlies should lose their protected status as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

“Grizzlies have grown significantly in numbers and range since being listed as threatened,” Gunther said. “Biologically, they are ready to be delisted.”

Gunther’s Q&A was part of a series of chats hosted by Yellowstone during which anyone may pose a question to some of the park’s top biologists. Past sessions have featured Rick Wallen discussing bison and Doug Smith answering questions about wolves.

While it’s tough to offer a nuanced response on a complex topic within the Twitter limit of 140 characters or less, the series gives the public a chance to directly interact with Yellowstone scientists and researchers.

But most importantly, it has helped settle the long-disputed bear vs. gorilla debate.

And finally, no doubt well aware of the Internet’s obsession with cute baby animals, session host Jennifer Jerrett offered up an undeniably adorable image of Gunther conducting a bit of field research that just happened to involve weighing a tiny bear cub.

Just keep in mind, as cute as that little bear seems in the photo, it will one day grow up to be a silverback gorilla’s worst nightmare.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

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