Hallo Bay
More Than Bears

Bears, Bears Everywhere

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Our last day in Alaska's Katmai National Park began in the fog.

We landed at low tide and had quite a ways to walk to shore. That black dot just below the cloudy horizon is our skiff.

 

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But the walk to shore was worth it, as we saw this eagle snatch up a small bird and carry it off.


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A couple of eagles looking for snacks in the wet sand, with several bears in the far distance...


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Katmainp-442

The first bear we saw up close on the last day was sleeping. I guess he wasn't quite ready to get up yet. It's wise not to poke a sleeping bear, so we kept on walking.

 

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Shawn decided to walk us all the way back to that tree line just in front of the mountains, passing several bears as we went.


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This rocky hill is called Nursery Ridge because it is a popular place for momma bears to hang out with their young cubs.


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Via binoculars and this long zoom camera lens, we watched a cream-colored momma bear and cub make their way down the side...


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...and into the meadow below.

 

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Occasionally we'd see some hanky-panky happening...gotta keep Nursery Ridge restocked!

 

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Sit near a fallen log in a valley full of bears and something interesting is bound to happen...


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This is one of my favorite shots of the trip!


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Most of the time the grizzlies were just mosying along, but once in awhile we'd see them lope or even run (and show off those dangerous claws!)...

 

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This poor bear was looking haggard. He apparently was recovering from a violent fight...


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...because we saw this nasty wound on his backside. Those long sharp bear claws can do some major damage!


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We had a close encounter with this handsome fella.


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Wow! I just wanted to rub my hand through that thick soft fur but then I remembered those claws....

 

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We stopped to use this big log for our lunch site. As we ate the lunches Melissa had packed, we could look around us 360 degrees and see we were surrounded by at least 16 bears, probably a few more that we couldn't see. Every direction we turned we could watch bears!

And they weren't the least bit tempted by our food, as that is not their natural diet and those smells are not tantalizing to them.

 

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We watched this big male pursuing a young female...

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...and he eventually caught up with her. She played hard-to-get for a few minutes, but I guess his charms (or his brute force!) won her over.

 

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A couple of juvenile bears, who are not full-grown but not with their mommas any more, entertained us with a friendly jousting session.


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As we meandered back toward the shoreline, this fluffy momma and her fluffier cub were grazing close by, so we stopped and spent several minutes with them.


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They literally got within 5 feet of us! We never moved and they quietly munched their way around our group.


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Another of my favorite shots from the trip!

 

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This is clearly a nursing momma bear, not looking at us but checking out another approaching bear. Again...those claws!


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Our last bear encounter was our hairiest one. This bear has been dubbed Ursula, and she has two cubs.



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Ursula and her cubs were featured in a nature film last summer and were more familiar with humans and cameras than grizzlies ought to be.

 

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The cubs were adorable and had some great playful interaction in front of us.


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...with Ursula looking on, seemingly with a bit of an attitude.

After about 10 minutes, she decided to test us (by "us" I mean Shawn, as he has been around her many, many times)...


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...and started right toward us, under the guise of eating sedge. But she was moving too fast and Shawn quickly picked up on her sneaky scheme.


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While Shawn was getting a little nervous about the situation, Ursula did give us some great photo opportunities...


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...but when she was too close for our cameras to even take photos, she was TOO CLOSE! Shawn talked to her gently and she kept coming. He spoke a little louder, then clapped his hands. She was not daunted. At this point Shawn ordered us to stand up as a group and pick up our buckets and stay together and back up. I think at this point he had his hand on the flare, although he never had to use it. She stopped eating and stared at him, all the time we were walking backwards away from her. 

She held her ground but we slowly retreated and she didn't pursue. She never growled or acted threateningly, but she was too aggressively approaching us. It was clearly an "I Dare You" game with Shawn and she wanted to be sure he knew who was in charge. We all got Ursula's message loud and clear, with our hearts thumping quite a bit faster.

 

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But she gave us some awesome photo ops and an exciting experience to end our last day at Katmai.

 

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So long Hallo Bay, where there were...

...bear, bears everywhere.

 

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