Continuing on with images from our 4-day stay on the Russian River, our 2nd day (which was perfectly timed for my birthday) was filled with lots of brown bear activity as well. This time we saw a total of 6 different brown bears and I really couldn’t believe that we had been so lucky.
Almost immediately when we got down to the river we were greeted by the 2 cubs from yesterday. They were already out fishing in the river and succeeding in making the fishermen scatter…. and the wildlife watchers spring into action. Early in the morning, most days it’s usually just the “hard core” photographers who are on the river banks, since the mornings are cold, damp, foggy, and strangely, a bit eerie and isolated.
When waiting for the bears, it’s weird because sometimes you have no idea where they might be coming from. I remember one year a black bear was eating a salmon under an elevated section of the boardwalk as people walked by looking for them. Of course, to keep the hysteria limited, we pretended to not know where it was either. LOL.
As the bears entered the river from the opposite river bank, we set up for a day full of activity. Of course, they didn’t disappoint us.
Before long they were chasing down the salmon and thrashing them about, ultimately leaving the river for the nearby bank and off into the wilderness, while they ate their prized catch.
This day, even mama bear came down to visit us … I think she was telling me “Happy Birthday”… LOL. She was a big sow too and a bit grumpy at times. No one on the river wanted to mess with her that’s for sure.
She joined 2 of her cubs on the river for some fishing. Eventually her 3rd cub came down to join the party, but didn’t stay very long. As they made their way down the river, we scurried along as well. For as much as I utilize the services of “my sherpa” Tom, when the bears are on the move…. I can manage by myself just fine. :-)
Both cubs began to fish out of the same hole and I sensed that something was about to happen. Look at how cute this cub is as it glanced over to see its sibling with a nice salmon.
Up onto its hind legs it went, as it struggled with that poor salmon. I was so excited as it stood there, giving some different takes on their day of fun.
I kept observing them and noticed that they approached each other again near that fishing hole. I said to everyone in my immediate vicinity … they’re going to play fight … and sure enough they did!
They were exchanging punches to the head, shoulders, and face … with the mouths open and growling. I was so excited, I was hardly able to continue shooting. You know, you get to that point when you question – should I shoot or should I simply watch. Of course, my shutter finger won out, as it usually does. LOL
After 2-3 minutes of playing, they quickly gave themselves a time out. Funny, it was pretty unanimous too. Like boxers retreating to their corners, the action stopped and I feared that it was over.
Then the bell rang again for Round 2!
Eventually they tired of all of that playing around and they went on to fishing in the river. Play time though is essential to their learning process and survival later in life. Bears live in a dominance and hierarchy-based structure and even at this young age, you can tell who is already the dominant bear.
Another sow and her solo cub were in the area and the cub came down to greet us also.
It wanted so badly to enter and fish in the river, but mom was having nothing to do with allowing that! So it sat down right in front of us …
… and began to scratch itself and seemingly have a chat with us. :-) OK, I know that I’ve used a bit of imagination there, but it was quite the thrill for me and I believe that my heart melted with our encounter.
Then the “Party Police”, aka the 1st mama bear, showed up on the scene again and I think she had lost sight of her 2 renegade cubs. She was clearly upset and began huffing, stamping, and slobbering with a frothy saliva. She eventually realized that they had gone quite a bit down the river, as young cubs love to test their boundaries. Funny, how parents and their young, whether human or any wildlife, tend to be the same in that respect.
I think that this guy, when he was spotted by the sow, knew it was it trouble. LOL
Of course, the more dominant cub hid behind a boulder in the river. Not really, but it did seem to be engaging in a peek-a-boo behavior, doesn’t it?
Eventually they returned to the area where they originally accessed the river earlier.
Now that other sow, with the solo cub, came down to the river and though it wouldn’t let the cub, it didn’t hesitate to do a quick “dine & dash”.
Though we saw the bears again very briefly the next morning, their appearances were limited and usually in the darker hours. As sad as I was to depart the Russian River without a formal good-bye, I was so thankful of the present they shared with me … especially on my birthday. I will always remember that joy I experienced that day.
Stay tuned for more bears … Katmai NP!
© 2014 TNWA Photography