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

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2012 Review: PART 5 – Family Reunion – Yellowstone, Tetons, & Zion NP

Barely unpacked from AK, I had a family reunion to get to out west.  See, we decided to gather up the gang – Kelli & Mitchell, my mom & her husband Murray, and us – to spend some time together out in the great outdoors, appreciating each other’s company, as well as the company of lots of wildlife and beautiful surroundings.  Tom & Kelli took a road trip out west, stopping along the way to get their mountain biking fix, and met us in Salt Lake City.  After a brief stop in SLC, we ventured out to Yellowstone NP & Great Teton NP.  To my surprise, we were a bit late for the explosion of fall colors that we had enjoyed 2 years ago – same time, same place.  Oh well, didn’t matter because the trip more than made up for the lack of fall colors by the abundance of wildlife.  Bears, moose, bison, wolves, coyotes, pronghorn, and elk were plentiful!  The weather was crispy cool, OK maybe even cold at times, but this Florida girl enjoyed it immensely.  Tom & I would get up really early every morning and shoot, while the family took in a bit more sleep.

Family reunion

Family reunion

Bison battling it out for superiority

Bison battling it out for superiority

Bull elk readying for the rut

Bull elk readying for the rut

After spending several days trying to track down the elk in the very early mornings, there’s a few things that I can remember as if it were just a moment ago ….

1.  The sound of the elk when they bugle.  If you haven’t heard that amazing sound, you need to google elk and listen to their call.  It’s one of the most amazing sounds that you will ever hear.  For literally miles and miles you can hear the echo within the vast wilderness of the landscape.  So soothing ….

2.  Another sound ….. see we ran across many sightings of coyotes – hunting in the fields, running to and fro ….. but on 2 occasions, we saw them run back to what I figured out afterwards must have been their den, most likely with a meal, and you could hear the yips of their young.  I’m not talking a yip or 2, I’m talking about 1-3 minutes of continuous calling out.  That is another sound that if you’ve never heard it, you should.  I wanted to tape it on my video in my camera, but I was paralyzed by the beauty of their sound.  Big time smiles after hearing that one!

Three generations

Three generations

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons NP

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons NP

Enjoying the view from Signal Mountain, Grand Teton NP

Enjoying the view from Signal Mountain, Grand Teton NP

Yellowstone NP, WY

Yellowstone NP, WY

Several days were also spent in and around Park City also, as Mitchell joined us for an extended weekend or so.  Then off towards AZ and NM we went – taking a few detours along the way – some intended, some not.  What a beautiful country we live in!  One of our unintended detours involved St. George (we won’t go into that one), but things happen for a reason and the detour turned into a visit to Zion NP – so incredibly beautiful and a treat from the summertime visit we did several years ago – much less crowded.

Looking up at the tall stand of aspens kissed by autumn

Looking up at the tall stand of aspens kissed by autumn

Paria, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UT

Paria, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

While the beauty of the southwest was difficult to leave, we had a more definite destination.

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 6