This beautiful bear was quite comfortable with my son and I as we photographed it grazing in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada back in June. That isn’t to say though that it wasn’t wary and cautious of us despite us keeping a very healthy distance from it. In fact it was abundantly clear that while it was tolerating our presence, it was also keeping close watch on us.
Here, it was moving from one grazing location to another and cast a deliberate glance right at us as if to say, “Yes, I know you are there.”
Common across many parts of North America, Black Bears can be up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds. While they typically eat grasses, roots and berries, they have adapted to human presence and are known for taking advantage of trash and other sources left behind by humans.
Seeing one bear makes for a great day of wildlife viewing. Seeing three in a span of five miles and one hour makes for an awesome day. Such was the case on this day in June in the northern Rocky Mountains of Jasper National Park.
After spending a half hour watching one bear, we moved on and came across this one a couple of miles away. It was a bit unusual looking with its cinnamon colored face but quite handsome. This image, captured as it was taking a step forward, also showcases its impressive claws.
The bear largely ignored us and a few other people that were nearby but did keep focused on the humans as you can see by the look in its eyes.
To say a Grizzly Bear is intimidating is probably a bit of an understatement. Adult males can weigh between 600 and 900 pounds and can be as tall as 4 feet at the shoulder. They are massive creatures and at the top of the food chain without question.
Naturalist George Ord gave the bear its classification, ursus arctos horribilis, due to its intimidating character. Lewis and Clark studied and wrote extensively about grizzlies including relaying one story in their journals of an encounter during which Lewis was actually chased by one. Not an enviable position to be in for sure!
This particular bear was one I saw in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada last month.
It was our second full day in Jasper National Park and despite hours spent looking, I had yet to see a bear and was growing frustrated. The fact our sightseeing trip for the day was coming to an end heightened my anxiety but then things changed – big time.
We came across this gorgeous bear grazing in the Medicine Lake area and it obliged us with all the pictures we wanted. After leaving it to continue eating in peace we came across another about a mile away and then two miles later, another! Patience is a virtue and sometimes when looking for wildlife, I would do well to remember that. 😉
Ursus americanus is by far the most common bear in North America with a wide range and populations in most wooded and higher elevation areas of the continent. While not as big as some of their cousins, they can be 5 to 6 feet in length and weigh from 200 to 600 pounds. This one was not particularly large, probably in the low to medium parts of those ranges.
So much fun to happen across a pair of Black Bears on this particular morning (June 24) in Jasper National Park. They were walking through some pretty thick brush together when, in a relatively open spot, the one in the lead laid down and rolled on its back looking right at the other. I love being able to see its footprint!
I don’t know enough about bears to speak with any authority, but I do suspect it was a bit of foreplay because as they disappeared into the forest, one was clearly trying to jump on the other as it walked. 😉
Our trip to the Canadian Rockies allowed us to see quite a few of these cool creatures – a total of 10 across the three parks of Jasper, Banff and Glacier. By far though, the best opportunities and pictures came from Jasper.
One of my biggest goals with my excursion to the Canadian Rockies was to capture decent images of a Grizzly Bear – something that has eluded me over the years. The opportunities are rare and when I have had them, conditions were less than ideal and the images disappointing.
The fates finally took mercy on me and gave me a good opportunity on Saturday, June 25th in Banff National Park. While driving along the Trans-Canada Highway we spotted this massive guy walking along in an open area, seemingly oblivious to the traffic flying along nearby.
Coming to a fast stop I quickly pointed my camera and began clicking away. He gave me a number of good poses and while he was a good ways away necessitating heavy cropping of the images, the images are the best I have ever captured of this North American monster.
Unfortunately this was the only real chance I had at photographing one during the trip as we saw only one other and that one was too far off to get worthwhile pics.
An image for #TBT showing a Black Bear sow as she descends the rocky slopes of Waterton Canyon back in August. Her and her two cubs put on one heck of a show that day in an experience I will never forget.
Bears should be emerging from their winter dens now and no doubt will be very hungry after their long slumber. I’m pinning my hopes of seeing bears this year on a trip to the northern Rockies? in a couple of months. I just have to hope the bruins cooperate!
Going back to August for this series on a day in Waterton Canyon when I was observing a Black Bear sow and her two cubs. The trio had worked their way down to the South Platte River and while the female and one of the cubs crossed the river without a problem, one of the little ones was hesitant to cross.
Not realizing this, mom and the one cub continued on their journey further up the river. The scared one did finally cross the river but by the time it did, mom was nowhere in sight due to the thick growth along the river banks. Clearly scared, the cub began calling for its mom over and over.
The sow heard the cries and took off running, backtracking to find her offspring. They did eventually find each other and Mom led the lost one along, undoubtedly paying a bit more attention to where her little ones were at.
A somewhat heart-wrenching scene that unfolded in August but thankfully ended well. This sow and her two cubs were walking around a water diversion structure in Waterton Canyon, Colorado back in August.
Mom was able to easily scale the wall but it was far too tall for her cubs. One young one figured out a way around but the other struggled to figure it out.
For 15 minutes or so, it cried incessantly, pacing back and forth along the wall, trying unsuccessfully to scale it. Mom didn’t seem to understand why her little one couldn’t make it over.
Eventually the little one figured out where its sibling had gotten around and the family was reunited and headed off into the forest. It was tough to watch and listen to the cub as it was clearly stressed about the separation from its mother but also very pleasing to see them back together in the end.
Back in August I was observing this pretty lady and her two cubs as they walked along the South Platte River. The Black Bear sow suddenly took a swipe at the water and just like that, she had a quick meal which she tossed up onto the shore. A good day for the bears, not so much for the fish.
Black Bears normally eat grasses, roots, and berries but every now and then dine on fish and carrion. They of course also easily develop a taste for human food and trash thus leading to many human / bear conflicts when the bears choose the easy meal we provide due to our own poor care and stewardship.