Curiosity takes me in search of bears
My fascination with nature started as a child wandering through Toronto parks and canoeing in Killarney Provincial Park on the north side of Georgian Bay. We encountered a number of black bears in Killarney. I remember my dad dropping my sister and me off on an island joined to the mainland by a swamp. As he was out in the canoe watching the loons, a black bear was coming toward the swamp, quite interested in what we were doing. After yelling at our dad for what seemed like an eternity, he finally came and got us away from the bear.
This summer I was on a quest to see bears and I was rewarded a number of times, both while hiking and driving. What an exhilarating experience! I mentioned my first time seeing a grizzly in my post on Rawson Lake. Now this first picture is an example of how much more I need to practice shooting wildlife. I was so excited to see a grizzly and worried that it would quickly disappear that I shot through the window, and was not paying attention to my camera settings.
Luckily for me, this bear was intent on eating dandelions and did not seem bothered by the cars stopped to watch (even when I accidently honked the horn reaching for camera gear!). I calmed down, opened the window and was able to take a few shots of this beautiful animal.
Bear 152 in Kananaskis, Alberta
Driving through the Highwood Pass in Kananaskis, I was able to see bear 139. This one was slimmer, and definitely hot. It was walking quickly along the highway, ran across the road and made it into shade.
I was curious about why grizzlies are collared. Alberta Environment and Parks has two people on their bear aversion team who track collared grizzlies, try to change bear behaviour if they come too close to people and perform traffic control when too many people stop. According to The Rocky Mountain outlook, the aversion program is the longest running in North America. Collaring bears in the National Parks started out as a joint initiative with CP Rail to try to reduce deaths on the railway tracks. The data collecting is helping researchers to better understand bear behaviour so they can protect the animals.
I am learning that we shouldn’t stop when we see wildlife on the road, as tempting as it may be. The next encounter was with a female black bear with three cubs in Wells Gray Provincial Park and I tried to stay as far back from the bear as possible, and instead used a longer lens to try to capture some photographs.
A few other cars were very close to the bears and backed up when they moved up the road. This seemed to agitate the female as she paced back and forth across the road in between the cars. She finally decided it was safe and crossed into the woods. The cubs followed one by one.
My hiking experience with black bears was at Skaha Bluffs in the Okanagan and they were thankfully far away across a rocky canyon. Interesting that one of the cubs was brown.
I have read a number of blogs about the beauty of grizzlies and thought I would share a few:
Ghost Bear Photography: Summer of the grizzlies
StaderArt: The Icefields Parkway
Cindy Knoke: Wild Thing
Christopher Martin Photography: A smiling grizzly in Kananaskis
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share!!