In Search of Bears

OK, so on our way to Homer, Alaska, we ALWAYS have to stop off at the Russian River Campground for a few nights and as usual, we hope to find some brown bears fishing for salmon on the river, amongst the fishermen.

Used to be that the bears were plentiful … but we’ve noticed that their numbers seem to be dropping off on recent years.  For the last 2 years and this year as well, we were told that the bear sightings had been very limited.  Last few years, we were lucky though and bears showed up – last year on my birthday!  Would our luck continue?  When we arrived to the boardwalk along the river and worked our way down the first stairs that accessed the river, we didn’t see any bears, just the gleaming of the suns rays through the trees.

IMG_2889 First thing … the salmon were running … that’s a good sign.IMG_2896

The 2nd set of stairs leading to the river someone asked us if we wanted to find bears.  Of course!  He said that there were 2 bears playing in the water.  Off I went in a hurry, fighting off the urge to run, then wondering if the guy was simply laughing at us scurrying after them.  I hoped that wasn’t the case.

Then I spotted them … 2 sub-adult brown bears … playing in the river water like two sibling brothers in the tub!  LOL

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Yep, we hit it again!  I couldn’t believe our luck right about this point!  They began playing and “fighting”, to the thrill of myself and all of the other onlookers.

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I couldn’t help but wonder if these weren’t the same two who were here last year with their momma, but now they were perhaps big enough to be kicked out and therefore hanging together for companionship and safety.  They sure seemed to have a level of comfort with each other and the fighting was more like fun than anything else more serious. DSC_5905-2

They each began walking over in our direction …

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It was such a thrill to photograph them as they were coming closer.  Understand that we’re on a boardwalk with a rocky shoreline, thick shrubs, plastic netting, and trees between us and the bears.  They’re also very habituated towards people, so I really didn’t think anything of it.

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All of a sudden, the larger of the two grabs one of the tree branches and lifts itself over the netting barrier and begins to climb … the tree!

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Now, I’ve seen black bears climbing trees regularly, and even brown bear cubs climbing, but these guys were sub-adults and quite big to be climbing the trees!

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It was having the best time jumping around in the tree and began to shimmy its way back down the tree.  I was shocked, fascinated, and thrilled to watch it all unfolding before me.  Finally, it turned to us and gave us this priceless glance …. How could anyone NOT LOVE that face?!DSC_5919-2 Once back on the ground, which was right next to the boardwalk, we saw it feasting its eyes on approaching the walk, so we retreated.  Sure enough, when it had plenty of distance between any of the onlookers, it did in fact take the boardwalk for a bit.DSC_5951

Eventually, it dipped into the thick brush and wilderness and we never saw it … or its buddy, who we had lost contact with when the larger was on the boardwalk … again.  We were there several more days, but never saw it again … or any signs of its presence.  Wished we would have, but we were quite thrilled to have shared that limited time together.  I do worry about those, and other bears in the area.  Though photographers love to see them active and mingling around, not everyone shares that love.  Of course, humans have, and will always unfortunately, do stupid things in their presence, thus perhaps teaching them bad habits.  I would just love to share their home in the wild, in a respectful way, and continue to observe their awesomeness.  🙂_DSC2915Next up:  Finally reaching our destination of Homer.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Hot Dog !!!

One of the days, as we were traveling along in the Canadian Rockies, we came across a grizzly bear in the not too far distance.  “Stop the truck!” I said to Tom.  It was after all our first grizzly of our trip … see most of the bears we encountered were black bears.  So Tom, being a good sherpa, pulled over so I could observe and photograph the bear.  It sure was a beauty too.

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This bear was wandering around on the rocky landscape, in a location that I will never disclose.  I’m not being secretive about wildlife sightings, but it will make sense by the end of this post.  Promise  🙂

This healthy looking grizzly laid down on the gravel and began to roll around.  Oh, how cute, I thought … it’s scratching its side on the rough surface of the rocks.   I was ecstatic with the angle because I just LOVE bear paws and claws!

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It rolled over … kind of like a dog in the grass …

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… and it continued to roll around … over and over.  I was happily snapping off images and couldn’t believe what an awesome sighting this was.

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Every so often, it would glance over its shoulder to get a glance at the crowd that was quickly forming.  Most people were out of their cars.  Many tried to get closer to this bear, which made me very annoyed.  I mean, come on!  Here we had this gorgeous bear … acting like a bear!!!

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Hot dog!!!, I thought.  We sure did hit the mother lode opportunity.  This bear was giving us quite the show!!!  Didn’t think that it could get better.

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Well, you know when things seem too good to be true?  After not too much longer, I checked my screen and saw something that haunts me still to this day.  Something that was so inexcusable and disturbing.

That’s when I noticed that the grizzly bear was rolling around, like a dog when it rolls in something dead does.  But this was not your typical road kill.  This bear had been thrown hot dogs … not just one, not two, but 5 hot dogs!!!  Many of the images above were worked on to eliminate what was the reality, as seen in those below.

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Good Lord, who does that???  I’ve seen all kinds of things over the years, but I think that this is the thing that bothers me most.  Spending a lot of time in various locations photographing brown bears (grizzlies), I sure hope that whatever IDIOT person was responsible for giving this bear HOT DOGS! or any other kind of human food, will be caught and fined.  I mean, come on!!!

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This is clearly not the case of a bear who raided a BBQ grill, took the hot dogs to his own little picnic area, to sniff and roll around in.  This was deliberate!  I can’t even imagine why anyone would do this.  The reason that I will not disclose this location, and put this post out of order of our travels, is that this is not the fault of this bear.  Happy to report that he didn’t even eat them.

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When a wild bear is TAUGHT things that aren’t natural for them – like eating hot dogs provided by a human (no, make that spectator(s) standing within close vicinity – closer than regulations mandate), it can only lead to bad things for this poor bear.

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As I mentioned, this grizzly bear didn’t eat the hot dogs and eventually got annoyed with the onlookers, who were slowly, but surely, invaded its personal space, so it left the area and went off into the brush.  After we hadn’t seen the bear for about 5 minutes, Tom & I took a plastic bag and picked them up.  I didn’t want this bear – or another – to come back for it.

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Please remember that a FED BEAR is a DEAD BEAR !!!

After I wrote this post, I thought to myself, I could call this shot of the bear … Dead Bear Walking!  I know that this is not the norm for human behaviors and that especially anyone who is reading this post, would never do something like this, but I felt that I had to share this with everyone.  Let’s all get a dose of COMMON SENSE out there PLEASE!!!

More from our trip to come … so stay tuned!

© 2014 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography