Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Admiralty Island

Just off the coast of Juneau is an enormous island called Admiralty. It is 1,646 square miles, making it the 7th largest island in the United States. But that isn't what makes it special... the Tlingit people named the island Xootsnoow├║ which means "Fortress of the Bears". Admiralty is home to an estimated 1,600 Alaskan Brown Bears, the highest density of brown bear in North America.

We arrived before the season truly begins, the salmon are not running yet so there isn't much to pull the bear out of the woods just yet. That said, we were greeted immediately upon landing in our float plane by a sow working the shoreline for mussels and clams. She would dig and dig and then chew the clams open with her massive teeth.

She had no intention of moving either and we waited a good long time before we could tie up the float plane and disembark. She was completely unperturbed by the entire proceeding, barely sparing us a glance form time to time. Permits are needed to visit the island which is covered mostly by a sanctuary. The only development on the island is a small settlement of about 570 Tlingit people whom are outnumbered nearly 3:1 by the bears.

We watched four different bear clamming and eating sedge during our visit. I'd love to come back once the salmon are swimming though a longer lens is a definite must.

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