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Tag Archives: Bear

Grizzly morning silhouette

Bears don’t always show up under perfect lighting conditions.  This grizzly sow was out foraging for clams just as the sun was rising…behind her!  Since she was walking right on the edge of the water, there was no way to circle around to the other side of her to get the pretty golden morning light softly illuminating her orange-brown fur.

One solution was to turn her into a silhouette.  Her pronounced shoulder hump tells you this bear’s a grizzly.  And the simplicity of the image gives it a serene quality.

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Grizzly Cub Play 2

The grizzly cubs entertaining themselves on this large driftwood stump while their mother was grazing alternated between playing nicely together and mock-fighting.  All of their “fights” seemed to be pretty tame:  gentle boxing and wrestling matches with an occasional playful nip thrown in for emphasis.  I never heard a squeal or yelp from either of them.

It’s a good thing they play gently because even though they’re young, their claws and teeth are already quite sharp.  Notice the choppers the cub on the left is sporting.  And yes, they’re both still nursing…OW!!!

Grizzly Cub Play

These two grizzly cubs had a wonderful time climbing all over this overturned driftwood stump while their mother was grazing nearby in the meadow.  There were places to smell, and places to scratch, and there was bark to peel off…not to look for bugs to eat, but just for the fun of it!  There were roots to bend to see if they would break (some did, some didn’t) and still others to chew on…and best of all, you could climb to the high end and get a good look (and sniff) around.  Fun!

upside down grizzly cub

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (“Lookin’ Around,” 10.25.13) photographing grizzly cubs playing in tall grass had its challenges.  This image illustrates that perfectly.  The cub on the right has obviously toppled over, and its sibling on the left is taking advantage of the fallen bear’s vulnerability by play-biting it on its head.

At first, attempting to photograph the cubs’ antics seemed pointless.  We would see the grass blades moving, a blur of brown fur, and an occasional nose or paw momentarily sticking up.  But we kept the shutters snapping in the hopes that one or both of the cubs would do something precious where we could actually see and snap it.

Mom was taking advantage of her children’s preoccupation to do some uninterrupted grazing nearby. The cubs would take a break from their playing every few minutes to locate mom, and then resume their frolicking.

A good time was had by all:  the sow, the cubs, and the photographers!

grizzly cub standing

Why do bears stand on their hind legs?  Because they can!

It’s a great way to see more–and to smell more–than they can at ground level.  Especially when you’re a tiny cub playing in tall grass.

As you can see, the grass is higher than the cub’s hindquarters, which means that when it’s on all fours, all it can see is…grass.  And all the photographer can see is…grass.

This cub and its sibling had some epic wrestling matches while mom was grazing.  Sometimes we were able to get a good view, and other times all we saw was the occasional paw sticking up out of the grass.

So we loved it when one cub or the other–or ideally both together–would stand up to take a breather and/or to relocate their mom, who was a fairly mobile grazer.

The cubs–like human children–also loved to climb UP on things, like logs or rocks.  That gave them an even better vantage point than standing up on the ground.  And of course gave us photographers some delightful photo ops.

Over the next few days, I’ll post some images of cubs being cubs.

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.

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?