Reaching speeds of up to 30 mph, the young elk is facing imminent death. / Rafael Sandoval

By Martin Ruffell


THE MOMENT a bear mum hunted down and killed a baby elk to feed her cubs has been captured in a series of extraordinary photos.

One image showed the 440-pound bear bounding after a terrified 30-pound baby elk who fled for its life.

In a second image, the bear’s cubs gathered round the slain elk and tucked into their tasty lunch.

A grizzly momma bear races spots prey in the undergrowth and races after it. / Rafael Sandoval

The amazing photos were taken by naturalist guide Rafael Sandoval (25) from Dallas in Texas, USA.  Rafael captured the incredible images at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA, using a Canon 5D Mark IV camera with a Canon EF 100-400mm lens from a distance of 100 feet.

“After separating the calf from its mother, the grizzly and her cubs followed the scent of the calf into a stand of trees where it was believed the calf bedded down to hide,” said Rafael.

“However, grizzlies have an acute sense of smell and our mother bear was able to flush the calf out of the trees.

The 440-pound grizzly closes in on its prey. / Rafael Sandoval

“Elk can run at top speeds when out in the open so instinctually, the calf fled out of the woods to escape the bears.

“As a photographer, this situation gave me a clear line of sight as the mother bear came barrelling out of the woods in pursuit of the elk.

“The bear tracked the calf through the woods for roughly twenty minutes before flushing it out – chasing it down in under fifteen seconds.

The baby elk is only able to run for 45 seconds before the bear has caught up. / Rafael Sandoval

“This was the first act of predation of this kind that I was able to witness and so the whole time, I was in awe and quite literally jaw-dropped.

“I simply could not believe what I was witnessing.

“While the death of the calf may be sad to some, it is important to remember that through its sacrifice, the bear and her cubs are going to bed with full stomachs and a better shot at making it through to the next summer.

The grizzly and its cubs feast on their kill. / Rafael Sandoval

“There is no evil in nature and in a predator-prey relationship like that of the grizzly bear and elk, the bear is not concerned with the death of its prey but rather the health and success of her offspring.”

Despite their position at the top of the food chain, a grizzly bear’s diet is largely made up of fruit, nuts and berries. However, with the ability to run up to 30 miles-per-hour and their jaws being powerful enough to crush a bowling ball, it’s certainly worth keeping a wide berth if you see a grizzly in the wild.