Thought I’d “shake things up” a bit for this post. Instead of local images, I’m posting this image of a Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) that I made a few years ago in Alaska. I have traveled to Alaska several times to photograph the coastal Brown Bears there. My favorite location is Hallo Bay and when I go there, I stay at Hallo Bay Bear Camp. They have a very unique place, located in Katmai National Park. They own ~3 acres of land that used to be an old Russian fishing/clamming village, in an area called Kaguyak. The village finally succumbed to the harsh winters and several fires a long time ago, with the residents deciding not to rebuild. The current owners purchased the land and built a bear viewing camp there, complete with private “cabins”, a galley, and a restroom/shower facility. The camp is surrounded on 3 sides by Katmai National Park and the 4th side is water. Across the water (Shelikof Strait) about 35 miles away, is the Afognak Islands, located at the north end of Kodiak Island. The Hallo Bay Camp has been in existence over 20 years, so the brown bears there are used to seeing humans. In fact, it is not uncommon to have a brown bear walk to within just feet from you, even when in camp!
Brown Bear activity at Hallo Bay is normally very busy and consistent. In spring/early summer, before the salmon runs begin, the Brown Bears graze on sedge grass (which is approximately 23% protein) in the meadows. And at low tides, the bears move to the flats and dig up razor clams; the bear’s keen sense of smell immediately and accurately directs them to the razors, even though they are buried up to 6 inches in the ground. Usually beginning in late June, salmon runs occur throughout the summer and into fall.
The image I highlight today was taken at Clint’s Creek, a short walk from camp. This Brown Bear has been fishing, using a technique called “snorkeling”. The bear submerges his head in the water and moves his head back and forth as he watches for fish to swim by. When one does, BANG, he catches it in his mouth! After snorkeling, the bear will take his head out of the water, not only to get a fresh breath of air, but to also shake the water from his face and out of his ears (most bears hate water in their ears). That’s exactly what is going on in this photo: