Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

How Photographers Effect Wildlife. Part 2, Bear


Yep, that exclamation can cause a range of emotions in humans. Bears are big, fast, scary, edible, prized trophies, and complicated. When a photographer shows up in bear territory it also makes for some contemplation in bears - especially when spring bear hunting season is still open.

So let's see what this particular bear is thinking...

"M-m-m! Photographer for lunch again!"

"Armed with a Canon. No problem."

"I'll practice my catlike stealth."

"That's plenty of that. Time to close in."

"Uh-oh, now I remember. The last photographer I ate gave me indigestion bad. All those additives and preservatives made me see spots. And I got a memory card stuck in my teeth."

"You're off the hook this time, Photographer. Let this be a lesson to you."

Relieved to be intact,

Alaska Beachcomber

More wildlife stories, both serious and not: Alaskan Critters Menu

 Hey Folks,

After several people wrote in with concerns I feel that I should add a little P.S. on this post. It’s a story. (The “M-m-m, Photographer for lunch again!” line is supposed to set it up as somewhat silly.) While bears can be dangerous, this one never acted in a threatening way. I interrupted the bear’s backscratch-on-a-tree session. Despite that rude behavior on my part, the bear was polite, curious, and cautious. I was using a long lens, but the bear was concerned, so I was in it’s space - a mistake on my part.

A page on my other website about bear safety:

Hiking in Bear Country on VisitPOW.com

And thanks for the fun comments!! Keep ‘em coming!

Found Bear Skull

Last fall I was out hunting mushrooms and came across this:

I know. That doesn't look like it is in the woods. Just squint and use your imagination and pretend that the quilt fabric that I snow dyed is actually moss.....

You drop to your knees in the soft moss, amazed at the remnant of a powerful bear in front of you. Giant spruce trees are your witnesses, and the tangle of berry bushes making up the understory lean in to see the look of wonderment on your face.

Only the upper part of the skull is exposed, lichens and mosses replacing fur, a fallen branch almost obscuring the form.  You reach forward and pull this mass of bone gently away from the clinging moss and turn it over. A soft ivory glow lights the two great canine teeth.

Some of the teeth have been lost to the forest, but the remaining molars don't look too worn. This was not an old bear. It was a fairly sizable bear, though, and the reassuring weight of the rifle slung over your shoulder feels good. This bear is gone, but the one that dispatched him might still be living in the neighborhood. The thought expands your awareness zone and you stand up to do a 360.....

Okay, there wasn't a bear there that day. I took this photo a few days before. But you see why I try to be very aware in the woods! I didn't have my camera when I found this skull, and I wasn't about to walk out to get it and then climb that hill again. I dug around and found half of the lower jaw and three vertebrae buried in the duff.

I took the skull to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Craig and Mark put a complimentary locking tag on it to make it legal. I can even sell it now if I want to! Mark did some rough measurements with a tape measure and guesstimated that the skull measured 19.5 inches. That is length plus width. It would be impossible to do accurate measurements on a skull that is in such bad shape. Still, it was a fair sized black bear. It was male, and Mark said that the teeth indicated that it was between 6 and 10 years old.

Bears fight and they make mistakes and they get shot at. Even being the biggest, baddest bear in the woods doesn't ensure a long life, though they can live to be twenty and sometimes even older.

I'm not sure what I am going to do with this skull. I love patina of dried moss and lichen, and have decided not to try to clean it. It's tough to find shelf space for prizes like this on the boat, but it would be such a good Halloween decoration...


May treasures in many forms find you,

Alaska Beachcomber

Bear Postcard

Okay, I hear you. You want to see more bears, so here's some images of black bears.

Most of the time I am happy to see bears like this:

Yes, just a little black dot way far away. Black bears are the real deal; unpredictable, large, fast, extremely strong animals. The history of humans and bears in close proximity is lose-lose.

They are fun to watch, though, and occasionally I get to see them just being bears.

This young bear is chowing down on grass on a very rainy day.

Scruffy yearling black bear using a log bridge to cross a creek.

A blurry drive-by of another Mom Bear deciding whether to send the kids up the tree, or take off. She told the cubs to follow her, and they all went down the slope.

Fishermen threw the fish heads and guts into the water and then the tide went out and left those yummy treats on the beach. The bears and eagles came in at dusk to clean up after the people.

The bear below came out of the woods nearby while I was sitting on the beach. It was too close for comfort for either of us. I said, "Bear, there are humans here," in a normal voice, and the bear turned and went back into the woods. No guarantees that those words will ever work again.

Then a bear (below) stepped out on the other side a few minutes later. There were six people on the beach, and we gathered up into a group and walked up the trail together to get back to our vehicles.

Another evening beach-bear.

Have a bear-y nice day!

Alaska Beachcomber

More bears: Bear Viewing at Dog Salmon Creek

And lots of animals in the Alaskan Critters index.