Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Grizzly Bears of Lake Clark


 I spent the second week of July at the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, one of the most extraordinary places on earth. It is located on 40 acres of private land within the boundaries of Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. This park was established in 1980 and the only access is by small plane. The facility has a main building where the most important place is located- the dining room. You will be served family-style wholesome and abundant meals- not to mention the deserts. They ring a bell to call for the feasts; so far the bears have not learned the meaning of that sound. There are several cabins spread nearby. It is not unusual to see bears walking around the buildings. For more information go to: http://www.silversalmoncreek.com/


The routine in the camp was to go out around 0600, returning for breakfast by 0800 and then out in the field again till lunch time.  After lunch we usually returned to our cabin for rest or to edit images while others opted to go fishing.  Then, we went out again at 1600, returning for dinner at 1900.  After dinner we went out again until sunset.  The early morning and late afternoon offered the best lighting conditions.


 
Imagine photographing dozens of grizzly bears, huge animals with a reputation for being aggressive, on foot at close range- not a single act of unfriendliness, rather one of total ignorance of our presence.  They were so close that a 400 mm lens was too tight for photographing most of the time; so I would have to back up in order to frame the whole animal within the viewfinder.  This also provided a way to maintain a safe distance from the bears.  Another item that may have helped our safety is that we were a group of 6 and always maintained a close group perhaps making us looks bigger.  These bears may be acclimatized to the presence of people that visit the area.


 
The first day after dinner we ran into Pavlov, a grizzly bear so named because of his strange personality.  It appears that this bear enjoyed posing for photographers and would lie down in the sand, roll around and demonstrate strange poses.  Then he would run to the water, run, come back to the beach, shake the water and start another routine.


 
There was a pair of 2-3 years old cubs that were recently chased away by the mother and were beginning to start their independent lives.  On various occasions they were chased by their mother or other adult bears and they would run away as fast as they could; on occasion they would climb a nearby tree. 

 
There was a pair of 2-3 years old cubs that were recently chased away by the mother and were beginning to start their independent lives.  On various occasions they were chased by their mother or other adult bears and they would run away as fast as they could; on occasion they would climb a nearby tree. 


 
The bears live in this area because of the abundance of food and consequently grow larger than the inland grizzly bears.  They have an ample supply of grass which they spend most of the time eating just like a cow, are experts and digging and opening razor clams in the mud flats at low tide (one bear cut the lip with the shell, maybe that is why they called razor clams), and later on in August-September fill their bellies with the salmon that come up Silver Salmon Creek to lay their eggs.  They are also scavengers and one evening, one found a dead skate that provided an opportune dinner.




 
There are other mammals and birds in the area such as wolves (saw tracks on the sand), beavers and numerous shore birds such as yellow legs, tufted puffins and mew gulls.  But next to the bears, the most exciting were the bald eagles. 






This one of the places on earth where I like to return, just as East Africa and Patagonia and enjoy a back scratch while waiting for another grizzly to walk by.

 

9 comments:

LLA Creations said...

Great pictures and what a treat to see in person!

Michael said...

Great story and wonderful photos to go along with it. I really enjoy traveling with you and hope we can do it again. Becky said that you are the most fun even if you are not too serious!

Michael

Michael said...

Wrong URL for me!

Michael

Ken Conger Photography said...

Wonderful series of images as always. The image of the bear's feet running away is unique. Blue Skies.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What a wonderful experience and trip Jose. These pictures are as awesome as always!! I especially like the one of the bear covering his eyes. In the wild I have sometimes come across animals who seem to love posing for the camera and wonder where they learnt the trick.

A magnificent post as always. Sorry this comment is late but this is the first chance I have had to check posts today as I have visitors.

Tim Rucci said...

Really nice images, Jose. Looks like you guys had a great trip.

Chris Tennant said...

Super images Jose. Looks like a wonderfully relaxing place to stay. It's too bad there are so many animals in your shots - it distracts from the landscape :)

Anonymous said...

The one of the bear leaning against the tree "spoke to me"!! Seems like a take off of "Don't Worry ! Be happy!"
Hugs,
Karen

Emille said...

Why did you actually come there for -the bears or the desserts, Jose?? These grizzlies definitely look different from the brown black bears I have seen in Yosemite.