You may be asking, “What is Hyperphagia?”. Well, this is a technical term that is used to describe the feeding frenzy of bears as they prepare for hibernation. As the time draws near to den for the winter, they get an insatiable desire to eat everything they can find … and as much of it as they can. For a photographer this is one of the prime times to photograph bears, as they are very actively looking for food. But they also have quite an interesting behavioral side of them at this time.
The images in this post were taken in September of 2004, during my first trip to the Hallo Bay Bear Camp (Twitter: @BearsAtHalloBay). I elected to make my first trip to the camp in the fall, when the landscape colors would be at peak, as well as the bear activity. And I was not disappointed!
As the bears go through hyperphagia, they essentially eat anything/everything they can get their paws on. And at a place like Hallo Bay, that means fish! Here are some images of a bear that had been gorging on fish for a while … so much that he needed to lay down and take a nap in front of us! The first image was taken shortly after he laid down and dozed off:
Within a few minutes he rolls, first away from us …
… and then back toward us:
Then, he yawns:
Then, back to napping:
The very next day, we ran across another brown bear exhibiting a similar reaction, only this time, the “bed” was a water bed! This photo was taken at the mouth of nearby Big River, at low tide:
And I must say that experiencing a bear during hyperphagia is not all “fun”. One evening, we went out for some bear photography after dinner. After a couple of hours, as the sun began setting, we headed back towards camp. Along the way, we ran into another brown bear that was napping on the trail. Since the trail was the only clean way back to camp, we had to sit and wait for the bear to wake up and move … we ended up arriving back at camp in the dark!
Putting this blog together has really given me the urge to get back to some bear photography … thankfully, I will be doing just that next summer when I return to Alaska to lead my workshop there … and the timing will again be in Alaska’s fall, so who knows ….!