Saturday, August 30, 2008

Up Close

One of the great things about the Katmai Brown Bear comes from the abundance of food found in the summer. When they emerge from hibernation they ravenously munch on sedge grass to get their digestive systems up to speed. Then the salmon berries bloom. A good salmon berry crop in the spring bodes well for spring cubs the following year - this year was stellar which gives me just the excuse I needed to head back there next summer. Next, the salmon arrive. The bears adopt a very cool "I'll mind my business if you mind yours" attitude toward people when there is so much for them to eat. That said, never underestimate them. Statistically the chances of being attacked by a brown bear drop by 50% when you add just one person to make a group. Increase the group to three or more people and the likelihood of a bear attack drops to 0%. We had 8 people.

This sow spent quite a bit of time hunting for salmon in the rivers fed by the Serpent Tongue Glacier. She followed the tide and deftly grabbed salmon from the shallows when they least expected it. By sitting quietly in a group several feet back from the rivers edge, we were no more obtrusive in her world than the gulls who swooped in to clean up the remains of her meal after she left. She made several circles in front of us and even laid down to rest and gaze at the fish swimming past. A pretty amazing experience to photograph a bear this big with only a 70-200mm lens.

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