Sitka Mountain Gear
Death moan of a bear.....
Bears
Contributors to this thread:
Medicinemann 14-Jun-15
Bou'bound 14-Jun-15
gobbler 14-Jun-15
Shug 14-Jun-15
Wayne Helmick 14-Jun-15
KJC 14-Jun-15
Wayne Helmick 14-Jun-15
gobbler 14-Jun-15
Wayne Helmick 14-Jun-15
Matt 14-Jun-15
Ken Taylor 14-Jun-15
kota-man 14-Jun-15
Sage Buffalo 14-Jun-15
turkeyhunter 14-Jun-15
Cornpone 14-Jun-15
gobbler 14-Jun-15
stagetek 14-Jun-15
Bou'bound 15-Jun-15
TSI 15-Jun-15
TSI 15-Jun-15
Kevin Dill 15-Jun-15
JimG 15-Jun-15
Ken Taylor 15-Jun-15
Julius K 15-Jun-15
carcus 15-Jun-15
kota-man 15-Jun-15
carcus 15-Jun-15
Kurt 15-Jun-15
Kevin Dill 15-Jun-15
Hugh 15-Jun-15
gobbler 15-Jun-15
TD 15-Jun-15
R. Hale 15-Jun-15
gobbler 15-Jun-15
Ermine 15-Jun-15
Medicinemann 16-Jun-15
elmer@laptop 16-Jun-15
glass eye 16-Jun-15
Ken Taylor 17-Jun-15
woodguy65 17-Jun-15
garytelecastor 01-Jul-18
dm/wolfskin 02-Jul-18
Owl 02-Jul-18
wilbur 02-Jul-18
OntarioJoe 02-Jul-18
Buffalo1 02-Jul-18
Dale06 02-Jul-18
Cheesehead Mike 02-Jul-18
Cheesehead Mike 02-Jul-18
COHOYTHUNTER 02-Jul-18
grape 02-Jul-18
grape 02-Jul-18
carcus 03-Jul-18
Shiras42 03-Jul-18
Shiras42 03-Jul-18
Twinetickler 03-Jul-18
IdyllwildArcher 04-Jul-18
jmail20 04-Jul-18
krieger 04-Jul-18
TEmbry 04-Jul-18
From: Medicinemann
14-Jun-15
I didn't want to hijack another thread that mentioned the sound of a death moan, so I am starting this one.

If there are any veterinarian's reviewing Bowsite, I would like your opinion regarding the "death moan" of a bear.

I have heard conflicting stories.....is the sound actually the moan of a bear dying?.....or is the animal already dead, and the diaphram is starting to constrict as rigor mortis sets in...expelling the air from the lungs, resulting in the sound?

From: Bou'bound
14-Jun-15
Never heard the rigor mortis thing I guess if they moaned a couple hours after they died that would be one thing but normally you hear a crash and an immediate moan

From: gobbler
14-Jun-15
As a physician, rigor mortis takes hours to start setting in and the death moans in my experience occurs while the animal is dying. I can't logically see how it can be related to rigor mortis. I always thought it had to do with a bear trying to breath in the last stages of a sucking chest wound right before it quit breathing.

As an ER physician for 30 years I have heard humans make moaning and gurgling sounds from gunshot and stab wounds to the chest either right before they died or we were able to get them intubated and chest tubes placed to reexpand their lungs to stabilize them for surgery.

From: Shug
14-Jun-15
Not a vet...but an experienced bear hunter. I've heard different types of moans...some that sounded like they were just the last breath being released and others that were multiple loud moans...I actually have a bear I shot on video doing it 13 times. In my opinion the loud multiple ones aren't any type of already dead sound...its more like a "hey I'm dying here" moan...

14-Jun-15
From a Vet friend a few moments ago- It is post death. His throat constricts, causing the moan. Although they may have reflex twitches after

14-Jun-15
Gobbler, Any idea why other animals don't do the same thing? After over 100 deer kills I've only heard one mule deer make a similar sound and that's how I found it. Any thoughts?

From: KJC
14-Jun-15
I heard a similar noise when I picked up the body of a dead women.

14-Jun-15
That would take some getting used to KJC.

From: gobbler
14-Jun-15
Let me explain what a sucking chest wound is. The diaphragm when it expands and constricts help us pull air in through the trachea.

If there is a hole in the chest cavity from an arrow, knife, bullet it allows the lung to deflate and creates an air pocket between the inner lining of the chest and the lung. When that happens as we breathe air is pulled into the chest from that hole as well as from the trachea. The air that is pulled in through the chest wound further deflates the lung. The animal feels like it's not getting enough air( because it isn't), and they start breathing faster and heavier to try and compensate but that just makes it worse by allowing the air from the chest wound to accumulate faster and collapse the lung quicker. It creates a vicious cycle until the pressure inside the lung is greater than outside and the animal is unable to breathe. Plus the projectile usually produces bleeding which further pushes against and deflates the lung.

Humans usually are facing their attackers and unless they are double tapped on each side usually only have one lung affected. Game animals which are usually shot broadside have a chest wound on both sides which is double trouble for them. That's why as bowhunters we like broadside shots because they lead to quicker and ethical kills.

I don't know why bears do it. I've killed about 10 black bears with my bow and about half did and half didn't. The ones I've heard have been pretty quick after the bear went down. I've always assumed that it had something to do with the fact that bears do growl while deer, elk and most other game don't. Bears also are a unique species with their ability to hibernate their metabolism is a lot different from non hibernators. If deer layed down and slowed their heart rate down real low and didn't dedicate or urinate for a few months they would die. Bears do it almost every winter. They are a unique animal.

14-Jun-15
Good enough Gobbler. I understand the anatomy and physiology of it, just wondered why bears do it and others don't. Not that it matters. Probably never know. You may be on to something with the growl though. Have a good day.

From: Matt
14-Jun-15
The only death moan I have heard sounded more like a sheep bawl than anything, and I think he bawled 2-3 times.

One thing that may be of interest given some of the comments above is that I am almost positive the shot on the bear in question did not penetrate the chest cavity. I shot the bear facing me, pulled the shot a bit to the right of center, and am fairly certain the arrow traveled between the ribs and leg and cut the artery that fed his left front leg. It was one of those "poor execution, excellent outcome" situations.

From: Ken Taylor
14-Jun-15
I can't count the number of bears I heard death moan, but sometimes I have stood right beside them during the moans and they sure looked and acted dead to me.

As a test I have even touched them while it was happening and it made no difference.

The moans can vary in tone from bear to bear and from one deep exhaled breath to numerous all out moans.

One peculiarity that I and other experienced guides have noticed is that on average, a heart shot bear seems to moan more times than a lung shot bear.

Death from major artery damage seems to make them moan sometimes too, but not instant kills shots such as to the brain or cervical area of the spine.

Hard to tell if gut shot, etc. bears death moan.

From: kota-man
14-Jun-15
I've shot a half dozen bears...Two death moans but one this year has me puzzled.

A 15 yard shot that I thought was perfect on a 400+ lb. bear. Bear went 60 yards and went down. No moan. I waited for my guide to come in which took a little over an hour. Walked up to the bear and he got up and ran away. A few minutes later we hear a "gurgle" and what sounded like every death moan I've ever heard before. (all two of them) The bear went in to Riding Mountain National Park and we had to wait until the next day to get permission to go in to recover the bear. We thought the bear would be dead 50 yards into the park. 3/4 of a mile later we were still on blood and never did recover the beast.

My guess is my shot was a hair high missing the onside lung. But, what the heck did we hear? Sorry if this is a bit off topic Jake, but it does have to do with a "non" death moan! :)

From: Sage Buffalo
14-Jun-15
4 bears - 3 death moaned and 2 of them did it like 10-13 times.

They definitely do it before they are dead. They were all so loud it's a bit unnerving. I think its an apex predator announcing the end of its life.

iI thought there was a Native American lore around the death moan? Could be wrong.

From: turkeyhunter
14-Jun-15
Heard the death moan a few times this week with hunters. Most archery hits don't go past 30-80 yards.

From: Cornpone
14-Jun-15
Well, I've only experienced one death moan...not a bear but an elk. I shot an elk pass-thru just ahead of the diaphragm. He ran about 75 yards and laid down. I remained in my tree stand and just watched him...waiting for him to expire. It took 45 minutes. Prior to him laying his head down, he let out a loud long "death moan", very eerie. Absolutely nothing to do with a diaphragm contracting, or anything else...all due respect to any vet or physician who thinks differently but really doesn't know for sure. I watched him throughout the entire process since he was just lying there. I absolutely know what I witnessed...loud, long moan followed by his head going down slowly several seconds later.

From: gobbler
14-Jun-15
I've heard several but never actually saw a bear do it, but physiologically can't see how a "dead" animal can make a sound like that from any muscle or throat contraction . A gurgle or air escaping yes, I've seen that from dead people but a sound that long and drawn out like a death moan dosen't make sense to me.

No disrespect to anyone, just my opinion as a physician. After all they are a warm blooded mammal and not a cold blooded animal like a snake that can have movement long after they are dead. Different nervous system.

From: stagetek
14-Jun-15
I've heard it three times in the three bears I've killed. All were lung shots, and I was told it was the weight of the bear collapsing and the air escaping from the lungs.

From: Bou'bound
15-Jun-15
debate as you wish, but when you hear it there bear will never get up and run away. it is the ultimate sign you killed it. finding it is another issue in some of that habitate, but dead it is.

From: TSI
15-Jun-15
The death moan is done in the process of dieing not after death heard hundreds.

From: TSI
15-Jun-15
The death moan is done in the process of dieing not after death heard hundreds.

From: Kevin Dill
15-Jun-15
Lacking any scientific proof I guess all opinions are valid. I've heard it (death moan), and most recently on a bear I killed 2 weeks ago. Given the varying volume, pitch and duration I absolutely don't believe it is a post-mortem sound. I think it is a true vocalization which happens spontaneously as dying is imminent. I think this is further supported by the fact that a death moan can be repeated several times and would almost certainly require (attempted) respiration while dying. Is the bear conscious for this? You guess. Semi-conscious is my conclusion, but for certain, unconscious people and animals can make true vocalizations which are stimulated by a yet-active area of the brain...which can show continued activity even when blood flow stops.

From: JimG
15-Jun-15
I think it's a survival last act of displeasure if you will. I witnessed my German Shepherd breathing his last breaths and his moan was almost like that of a dyeing bear. I have shot several bear with a bow and not all of them have moaned. I have been standing next to bear as it passed and it seemed like it was a defiance thing, that it did not want to die and the moan was it's last protest.

From: Ken Taylor
15-Jun-15
In my previous post I said that "they looked and acted dead to me" and that they did not react to my touching them.

After I reread what I wrote, I realized that I should have also added (like an old mentor of mine used to say) that they are completely unresponsive and are no longer aware of anything.

They look and act dead - like gobbler says, there has to be some life left in them to exhale more than once.

I'm not back pedaling, just trying to be clear.

From: Julius K
15-Jun-15
I heard it last year. It was creepy... and much louder than I expected. But, it did offer some comfort too, as I knew my bear wasn't far.

Do brownies and grizz moan?

From: carcus
15-Jun-15
Most of the bear I've killed have moaned, I have 3 caught on video doing it, they are not moving, not at all, but they are taking their last breaths, 2 of these videos the bear is under 10 yards. My bull elk I killed last fall moaned as well, I've heard a few elk do this over the years

From: kota-man
15-Jun-15
Can any of you bear experts explain what I possibly heard explained in my post above? Both the guide and outfitter SWORE it was a death moan. (Gurgle followed by loud moan) Yet, we tracked for 3/4 mile and found nothing...

From: carcus
15-Jun-15
Bigger bear dragged your bear away

From: Kurt
15-Jun-15
"Do brownies and grizz moan?"

Julius, I haven't heard it, but a very experienced outfitter says one grizzly they shot let out a very loud and long moan that reverberated off the mountains. That seemed to be the only one of many bears taken though. No comments by the brown bear guys I was around recently, so expect it isn't as common for the big bears to moan. That said, my personal experience with black bears is only about 10% have done the death moan.

From: Kevin Dill
15-Jun-15
Kota.....

I think you heard a moan exactly like a death moan. I don't personally believe a bear has to be dying in order to moan...but I do believe it's an involuntary reaction to extreme stress. Bears are very vocal creatures and I don't find it surprising that one would moan. I've heard cats, dogs and many other animals moan when in pain, stressed or near death.

I'm not an expert by anyone's standards.

From: Hugh
15-Jun-15

Hugh's embedded Photo
Hugh's embedded Photo
I shot the below bear on POW two years ago. About 5 minutes after the shot we heard the bear moan three times. We waited an additional 15 minutes before taking up the trail. So we started trailing 20 minutes after the shot and 15 after the moans. We found the bear about 10 minutes later, still very much alive, so at least in this case, it was not a death moan. We backed out and came back in the morning to find him dead about 20 yards away. The arrow had penetrated 1 lung only. As I shot the bear pivoted toward me and the arrow entered in front of the should on the on side and exited mid body on the off site.

From: gobbler
15-Jun-15
I've killed 2 grizzlies but both were with rifles and heard no death moan. The couple of blacks I've killed with a rifle I didn't hear moans. Out of the 10 blacks killed with a bow about half did it and half didn't.

At least in my somewhat limited experience it happens more often with bow kills more often?? Perhaps related to the difference between how bears for with a bow versuses a gun? IDK

Plus, it's probably a lot more familiar to black bear hunters simply because there are so many more black bear killed by bowhunters than there are grizzly, brown, or polar bears.

From: TD
15-Jun-15
Several with rifles many years ago, don't recall any moaning. But many times with the rifle it's so instant, BOOM and down, a good deal more shock to the system. All the bears in the fields were like that. Several were with hounds and the hounds were all you could hear.

My only archery bear a few years ago "moaned" loudly twice, sounded like a cow bawling. I'd call it more of a bawl than moan I think.That was maybe 60 yards away or so, but could not see him. A much larger bear carried him off a good ways and ate most of him sometime later, so I have no idea if where he bawled from was where where he died.

I have heard and seen a bull elk die from a couple feet away and he made a loud "groan/moan" noise at the end, doing one last "stretch" laying on his side on the ground. But nothing like the bear bawl.

From: R. Hale
15-Jun-15
I have heard some really odd sounds from wounded and dying deer. Heard them roar like a wounded grizzly, also death moan and others.

From: gobbler
15-Jun-15
I've heard several deer make noises. I'd call it more of a bawl than a moan. I think it all has to do with taking last breathes just prior to dying. Bears growl and or moan, deer and other ungulates may bawl. I think it has more to do with their normal vocalization. I know if I was dying from being shot thru the chest with an arrow I'd probably be cussing. LOL

From: Ermine
15-Jun-15
I've killed two bears. One bear made a low quiet moan. The other one didn't make a peep.

Pretty interesting discussion.

I shot an antelope once and it made a loud "bawling" sound. But I think the bawling sounds that deer and stuff make is differnt from the "moan" of a bear.

From: Medicinemann
16-Jun-15
My Black Bear moaned after I shot it ....interesting to note that it was heart shot.....as mentioned by Ken Taylor.

My Grizzly Bear, My Brown Bear, and my Polar Bear did not make any sound at all as they died....and I was probably within 100 yards of all of them.......

From: elmer@laptop
16-Jun-15
I have heard death moans on 4 of the 6 black bears me and my buddies have shot. One of them was just more of a loud last exhale. Loudest and longest lasted about 20 seconds and my wife who was 1/2 mile away at our truck heard it!!

From: glass eye
16-Jun-15
I shot a Blacktail Deer with a shotgun slug at 20 yards. I hit him in the spine and he let out a horrific moan as he was going down. It was on a lake shore and the acoustics there are such that it was really amplified. It was a sound that haunted me for quite a while. Also had a javelina moan, I think it was a last gasp death moan.

From: Ken Taylor
17-Jun-15
In my opinion there are two sounds being discussed here:

The plaintive wail of an injured animal (could be a black bear) that does or does not die immediately...

And the erie (usually repetitive) absolute death moan of a black bear.

From: woodguy65
17-Jun-15
I have a great close up video of a fairly drawn out death moan that would curl your hair. I have tried to post several times with no luck.

01-Jul-18

garytelecastor's Link
Interesting hunt. Manitoba. Listen to the audio after the bear was hit.

From: dm/wolfskin
02-Jul-18
I have had pigs do a death squeal when they go down for the final seconds.

From: Owl
02-Jul-18
Has anyone heard an actual "moan?" At its quietest, it still sounds like a bawl to me. Heard it numerous times. I have no doubt it is a straight up vocalization because it sounds very much like a bawl from a distressed but, otherwise, perfectly living bear. It's the plaintive sound of an animal giving up the ghost. Whether they are conscious or semi-conscious, I don't know but whenever I hear it, that is where the trail ends.

From: wilbur
02-Jul-18
I've had a couple bull elk do a death moan. First time it gave me the creeps.

From: OntarioJoe
02-Jul-18
I've found a fatal heart or artery shot results in a death moan and a dead bear within 30 yards. With a double lung shot it may be more of a quiet gurgle as blood works up the airways and esophagus. So I think it's a moan from a dying animal with severe blood lose. Kind of clinging to life but unable to go any further.

From: Buffalo1
02-Jul-18
4 bears killed- 2 death moans. One sounded “regular” moan sound and the other sounded like a “bullfrog croaking.”

I’m not a dr. but I have stayed in a couple of Holiday Inns prior to a hunt. I have been of the belief that it is air exiting from the lungs.

I’ve also had cape buff hunters tell me they have heard buffs moan and they know death is apparent. Interesting subject and comments.

From: Dale06
02-Jul-18
I’ve arrowed five black and one brown bear. The last black I shot was last month in Alaska. It was the only moaner. It was double lunged and ran 40 yards.

02-Jul-18

02-Jul-18
I've killed 4 black bears with a bow and I believe 3 of them moaned. One of them I have on video and he moaned several times. It's very eerie and I would also guess that the bear was still alive when it was moaning. I wouldn't call it a bawl (like a wounded deer) and certainly not a gurgle, it's definitely a long drawn out moan.

I've also heard at least 3 bull elk death moan and two of them had a little bit of a bugle mixed into the moan. One of them died within sight while I was hunting with my buddy Les and when my bull moan/bugled another bull went absolutely ballistic a couple hundred yards away.

Pretty much all elk hunters have heard bulls bugle in response to another bull's bugle but this bull's reaction to the dying bull's moan/bugle was like nothing else I've ever heard. It was very obvious that the sound of the dying bull's moan/bugle caused a very "emotional" response from the other bull that heard it...

From: COHOYTHUNTER
02-Jul-18
My elk made a death groan last September, in fact, that's how I found him, wasn't much of a blood trail in thick timber. And I heard him groan, sounded like a last effort to get more air. I heard the groan, then looked up hill about 80 yards and he was laying there kicking.. I got a little closer and watched him expire. His chest was still expanding and contracting after the groan until finally all movement stopped.. Also like cheesehead described, I heard elk above respond, with cows mewing and small bugles.. my assumption was he was trying really hard to get all the air he could.. It was a double lung pass through shot.

From: grape
02-Jul-18
The “death moan” is a sound you will remember. You can probably call it a “death groan” or “death bawl”. Once you’ve heard it, you will definitely listen for it after the shot. I’ve killed a lot of bears. The death moan seals the deal, but they don’t all die that way. If you have a completely broad side shot with the bow and you make the good shot, the bear will not go far. You will probably hear the death cry, but if you don’t hear it; it doesn’t mean that the bear isn’t dead. If you have a quartering away shot, which is a good shot; you may hit the opposite shoulder. I have found that sometimes will send the bear a greater distance before he dies. Again, not necessarily , but it happens. The completely broadside shot with a complete pass through, they many times don’t know what happened. They run. They hook. They die. They may moan....but not always.

Once you hear it....you would forget it.

From: grape
02-Jul-18
You would NOT forget it!

From: carcus
03-Jul-18
GrapeX2

From: Shiras42
03-Jul-18

Shiras42's Link
Death moan x4 at the end. Definitely not post mortem.

From: Shiras42
03-Jul-18

Shiras42's Link
Death moan x4 at the end. Definitely not post mortem.

From: Twinetickler
03-Jul-18

Twinetickler's Link
Here is a death moan from about a month ago tonight! Kinda fun!

04-Jul-18
My second elk did a death moan. It was heart shot and went down quick, but took a couple minutes to ultimately die. It gave out two death moans before lying its head down. They were obviously labored breathing and death throws.

I've watched several humans die. Old folks dying of natural causes give out a labored breath and often have a "death rattle," which is different and is caused by secretions. Death moan, to me, sounds more like the sound you make when you have Influenza really bad and feel like you're gonna die or after you've been vomiting for hours and give out a few moans.

From: jmail20
04-Jul-18
I agree with grape and carcus. Once you hear it you will never forget it.

From: krieger
04-Jul-18
"And the erie (usually repetitive) absolute death moan of a black bear. "

It's a conscious effort at making a sound, IMO. Why or how it happens, IDK, but there's no doubt, in my mind from the experiences Ive had, that its a conscious effort on the bears part. One of the most cool and hair raising sounds, I've ever heard.

From: TEmbry
04-Jul-18
It’s an animal wailing/gasping for air as it’s lungs collapse. I think too much is made of it personally.

I’ve shot 8 bears in the past 3 years, 2 gave out the death moan, 2 one loud exhale, and the rest went silent into the night.

I think several animals do it, bears are just extremely vocal critters and we hear it more often.

05-Jul-18
Have only killed two bears, so discount my knowledge. Only the second bear did I hear the death moan. It was within 50 yards of my stand and on the ground rolling around some. It was several very eerie moans. I will never forget it.

It was heart shot.

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