Last but not least in my look back at my photo year, we come to mammals big and small – with a reptile thrown in for good measure as well. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to photograph so many of the creatures which we share this planet with. Each one is special and each chance to see them thrills me. Enjoy this view of pika, marmots, bison, foxes, bears and so much more!
A never shared before pic harkening back to 2019 for #TBT.
I was recently chatting with my protégé, Jude Walters Photography, about Alaska and my experience in that amazing place and his forthcoming trip next year. As we did, I was scrolling through pics from my bear excursion in Katmai National Park & Preserve and began to realize how I had a ton of pics I never shared. So, here you go.
We landed in a float plane at a small lake and then hiked the two miles to the river. As we did, I was seeing bears along the way but none close enough to do much with and was kind of annoyed we weren’t getting closer. Our guide, sensing my frustration, told me, “Just wait.” He was right.
We weren’t at the river two minutes and along comes this beautiful lady and her cute-as-a-button cub of the year. Like all the bears at that time of year, they were not concerned with us, instead, staying focused on the salmon that were spawning in the river and the veritable feast to be had. Nothing short of amazing and I eagerly anticipate the day when I can return to that magical place.
Young black bear’s eyes through the trees. Going back to early last month and my encounter with this young black bear. My first view of it wasn’t exactly clear but it made for kind of a neat, different capture. It was well-buried in oak trees, happily dining on acorns. Its movement was a giveaway to its location and I was only occasionally getting a glimpse of it. There was one “hole” in the tree coverage where I could somewhat see inside and after a time, the bear moved itself into that window. Here you get a look similar to what I initially did, showing the cute face and gentle eyes of the creature.
Going back a few weeks to the second of two black bears I was privileged to photograph over a two day period. This one was, unfortunately, quite a long ways away but given the rarity of the sighting, it was still special.
This big bruin put on a great show demonstrating just how adept black bears are at climbing. It worked its way through the oak trees, devouring acorns as it went. Oftentimes, it would go out quite far on a limb, precariously balancing itself as seen in this image.
It was cool to watch and I was amazed at not only how agile it was but also that the branches managed to withstand the bear’s weight.
How about this cutie?
Even with the extraordinary amount of time I spend in nature, it has been pretty rare for me to see a black bear here at home in Colorado. They are quite common, just not commonly seen.
Two weekends ago, I got word that a number of them had moved to some lower elevations in the hunt for food to fatten up before their long winter’s slumber. That was, of course, an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
It was a bit of a trek but I did end up finding this cute, young bear as it gorged on acorns. It was a lot of fun to watch it as it climbed the trees, getting its fill. At one point the little one even fell out of the tree when it ventured too far out on a limb.
Judging by its size, it likely was only two years old, having just gotten the boot from mama and now out on its own. While it looks like I was close, the image was shot at 500mm and has been cropped. As always, I ensured I maintained a respectful distance and did not pressure the bear or linger.
In the wake of the devastating floods in Yellowstone National Park a couple of weeks ago, my mind has been wandering to all the sights and critters I have witnessed in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem over the years.
Certainly, one of the most memorable was almost one year ago when we got to see this pretty grizzly bear and her cubs of the year. I restrained myself from sharing very many pics of her at the time as she has a bit of a reputation and I didn’t want to draw attention to her.
Felicia, officially known as Grizzly 863, is estimated to be nine years old now and has become a fixture in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Her propensity to hang out in well-trafficked areas has caused consternation among wildlife officials and they have tried to encourage her to move to more private environs with little success.
There has been a lot of debate over how to handle her as she has never been a truly problem bear – she hasn’t threatened humans or shown any desire to intrude on human settlements. Felicia simply seems to like the area due to its abundant food supply and the fact that being in the proximity of humans helps to dissuade male bears (boars) who might threaten her cubs.
I only saw her this one time and for a brief 20 minutes or so but it was a fantastic experience that I was happy to have.
Apparently yesterday was World Bear Day and I missed commemorating the event so today I make up for it.
This is a throwback image to July 2019 and our trip to Alaska and one I haven’t previously shared. Taken in Katmai National Park & Preserve, we had the privilege of observing these incredible predators as they charged through the river, grabbing huge salmon with incredible skill.
Oftentimes when they chased the fish they would be running toward us, giving me some pretty darned cool captures like this one. Check out those claws! Wow!
As always, I have to state that we were well-prepared for this trip, took appropriate precautions and were with a professional guide. Additionally, this was of course taken with a large zoom lens and we were not as near as it would appear.
Black bear cubs are quite small and I am sure everything else in their world seems so big to them. Mama had her little one safely tucked in a tree but when she moved off to graze, the cub did not care for the distance between them – especially when a monstrous bison bull began to approach.
The cub worked its way through grass taller than itself, intermittently standing up to check the location of the approaching bison. It made for a cute pic with the little cub standing up among the lush, early summer grasses, trying to spot mom.
While mom wasn’t initially too concerned about the bull, she eventually decided it was best to move on and she and the cub headed off, giving the big boy plenty of room.
Like a hunting dog will stop and point toward game, this handsome beast was doing much the same, keeping very still while watching a batch of salmon swim up the river.
We made dinner for my mom last weekend and while we were chatting, she was remarking how she still is amazed at my bear pics from our trip to Alaska a couple of years ago. I told her that I had hundreds that I took that day that no one has even seen yet. Well, here is one.
This bear was pretty much average sized of the dozens we saw that day, and a pretty decent fisherman. Not long after this image was taken, it chased across the river, nabbing itself a nice meal.
I do love how you get a nice look at its claws in this image. Yeah, those could do some damage. 😉
Last month I shared a pic of this pretty lady’s cute cub. Now, here is a look at mama herself.
Taken in Yellowstone National Park, the bears were on one side of the road. On the other, a massive bison bull was working its way down the hill. Mama bear wasn’t concerned one bit with the humans in the car but that bison, well, she was quite intent on keeping an eye on him.
It was an interesting bit of interaction between the two species. The bison drew closer, I think only because he happened to want to go that way. As he did, the sow kept her cub close and she eventually stood up, something bears do when they want to get a better look at something.
Unlike what you see in the movies, bears usually stand up only for that reason, not as a sign of aggressiveness. Having evaluated the path of the oncoming bison and its proximity, mama bear decided it was time to leave right after this image was taken. Truly a fun encounter and something few have probably ever witnessed.
Photographer’s note: While we were somewhat close to this bear, it should be noted that the encounter started a good ways from the bear. The bear then closed the distance to us in a seemingly purposeful attempt to use our vehicle as a shield against the bison. Further, this was taken with a 500mm lens and the image cropped making it seem like we were closer than we really were. We were never dangerously close nor was the bear alarmed by our presence – unlike how it reacted to the bison. 😉