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.
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
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.
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.
They each began walking over in our direction …
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.
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!
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!
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?! 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.
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. 🙂Next up: Finally reaching our destination of Homer.
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography