A bear researcher was treated to a rare sight near Knight Inlet: a grizzly bear diving for fish.

It might sound surprising, but according to ecologist John Kitchin, grizzlies rarely dive for food.

He says most grizzlies are usually happier to dip their faces in the water, find dead fish at the bottom of the water and kick them up to the surface.

This bear, nicknamed "Jacques Cousteau," is obviously not most grizzlies.

"At times he was was [submerged] for 30 to 40 to seconds, and he was actually swimming around, kind of like a polar bear would," Kitchin told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

"There are three individual [bears] that attempt this. Jacques Cousteau is the best."

One of the three bears that Kitchin knows about is a female who dives for a few seconds at a time, and the female was with Jacques Cousteau. Kitchin said the bears stayed for about an hour and a half.

'Flexible in their approach'

Kitchin says he's seen Jacques Cousteau once before, two years ago, but this was the first time he's been able to capture video of the bear.

He says that each year, he will observe about 30 or 40 bears, and only a few will attempt this feeding strategy.

"Bears are really flexible in their approach to finding food and finding food others can't reach," Kitchin said. "It's about intelligently interpreting their environment and this bear sees there are dead fish at the bottom that others can't reach".

"What's the best way to get there? Fully submerge yourself in water and grab those fish before they continue to drift downriver."

"He's making the most of the resources that are available to him and perhaps stepping outside the comfort zone of the other bears."

Kitchin doesn't believe there's anything special or unique about Jacques Cousteau from a physical standpoint that makes him particularly good at diving.

He may just be smarter than the average bear.

Map: Knight Inlet


To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Meet Jacques Cousteau, the diving grizzly bear