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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Grizzly Sow nursing cubs

One of the highlights of my trip to Alaska last July and August was getting to see the grizzly sows nursing their cubs.  This sow and her cubs had gone to feed on clams out on the mudflats, and as soon as they returned to the meadow, the sow rolled onto her back and let the cubs crawl on top of her to nurse.

Grizzly sows have four teats, and these two cubs each picked a side, and then alternated between the upper and lower teats on their side of mom.

It was so neat that the sow felt comfortable enough to feed her babies with a small group of us watching.  We were close enough to hear the cubs latch onto their respective teats and suckle.  The bears also make a very sweet, almost purring  sound when they nurse.

And we couldn’t have asked for a prettier setting than a daisy-strewn meadow!

I feel so fortunate to have been able to witness this.

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Grizzly Sow and Cubs

This image shows the vastness of the mudflats on this section of the Alaskan coast.  You’d think it would be easy to spot bears out here, but it’s really challenging.  The bears can be several hundred yards off the sand beach.  At that distance, they sows look like rocks or pieces of driftwood, and the cubs are all but invisible.

Basically, spotting the bears involves finding a dark blob at a distance, and then continuing to watch it to see if it moves.  If it moves, it’s a bear.

In locations like this, a good pair of binoculars is indispensible…because you don’t want to lug your camera gear and tripod over half a mile of slippery mud to photograph a rock!

Grizzly Cubs Walking Together-2

These two grizzly cubs were following their mother across the mudflats of the Alaskan coast.  For several steps they matched strides perfectly, as if their walk was choreographed.

Grizzly Cub eating clam

This grizzly cub had such a graceful way of holding and eating razor clams…I was enchanted!

I’ve seen some human kids in restaurants lately that could take a lesson or two from these cubs…

I posted another image of the same cub last week (“Play With Your Food!” on 10.06.13).

Gull Photo Bomb

Humans aren’t the only ones who like to photobomb photographers!  I had a perfectly composed–and focused–image of a sleeping grizzly cub in the viewfinder when this gull decided to wander in front of the bear and steal the show.  To see what this image was SUPPOSED to look like, see yesterday’s post (“A Cool Place to Sleep,” 10.13.13).

I was of course going to delete this image, but I thought someone else might get a chuckle out of it.  Have you ever had a wildlife portrait photobombed by another critter?

Grizzly Cub in water

This grizzly cub took a long nap while its mother and sibling were clamming.  At times its nostrils were barely above water, but it didn’t seem to be bothered by that in the least.  The cub seemed to be enjoying the coolness that the water provided on a hot July afternoon.  I caught its eyes open briefly as it took a quick look around to make sure that mom was still nearby before falling back asleep.

Sow and cub clamming 5

A grizzly sow and one of her two cubs are busy digging razor clams on the mudflats of the Alaskan coast.  Even though mom’s got the advantage of size, her cub is no less eager to get into the act.

Sow and cub clamming 4

A grizzly sow took her two cubs clamming on the mudflats of the Alaskan coast one afternoon last July.  The cub in the foreground had evidently eaten its fill, and decided to take a little nap while mom and its sibling continued their feeding.

I love the contrast between the two cubs:  one lying as still as a boulder while the other one throws every ounce of energy it possesses into imitating mom’s feeding habits.

Sow and cub clamming 3

Like so many youngsters in the animal kingdom, grizzly cubs learn by imitating their mothers.  And as any parent of a (human) toddler will tell you, kids can get downright obsessive about doing things “just like mommy (or daddy).”  You can almost feel the intense concentration in the body language of the cub as it tries to find and dig clams “just like mom!”

Sow and cub clamming 2

A grizzly cub waits patiently as its mother sniffs out a razor clam buried in the mud.