Since I have
many, several, may be one or two? astute readers out there, I am sure that most of you have noticed that I have a new header for my blog. Just look at those lubbly jubbly bears up there. And look at the face of the poor, long suffering mother bear. You can almost hear her thinking "Don't make me come over there..........if I have to come over there......." Alternatively, she could be thinking "Four!?! FOUR!?! One would have been plenty, thank you very much!"
So, I have been to Alaska, to Katmai National Park, located on the Alaska Peninsula. This wilderness park, the size of Wales, is the place to go if you want to see brown bears, aka grizzly bears. The whole brown bear / grizzly bear thing is all a bit confusing, but as far as I can work it out, the grizzly bear is a subspecies of the brown bear and it is this subspecies that is found in Alaska and British Columbia. There, that is enough educational content for this post. Let's move on to the photos.........
To get to Katmai National Park, you need a float plane (or a boat and lots of time and seasickness medication). Now, I am not overly fond of small planes that have a habit of tipping over when they land on water, entombing you and dooming you to a cold and watery grave, but then I am even less of a fan of hours and hours of stomach churning sea faring, so we opted for the plane. The flight was flawless and we landed without a single hitch - that is until we noticed that our luggage, which was on a slightly later flight, seemed to be taking a very, very long time to arrive.
Me: "Excuse, but I don't suppose you know where our luggage is, do you?"
Guy who looks like he might know something: "Is it not here yet?"
Me: "Nope, just checked. It isn't sleeping with the fishes, is it?"
Gwllhmks: "Oh no, nothing like that, I suspect it is just being held up."
Me (rather sarcastically): "Oh, what might cause a luggage delay here? The baggage handlers haven't gone on strike have they?"
Gwllhmks: "Oh no, nothing like that. Go down to the beach and have a look. That will probably answer your question."
Hmmmmm, what kind of answer is that? So, slightly mystified, I trundle off to the beach and, sure enough, there is my answer. It is large, brown, very hairy and softly snoring right behind the plane on which my luggage is ensconced. Well, I have to admit that that is the best excuse that I have ever heard for delayed luggage.
"I am sorry, Ma'am, but there is a bear preventing us from off loading your luggage."
And so we arrived in Katmai. Our luggage was being safely guarded by a sleepy bear and we were then met by the welcoming committee - one mother bear and her four cubs. We had only been there 10 minutes and I already had enough photos to fill five editions of National Geographic (I am talking volume here, not quality). But just look at these adorable little characters...........
After the obligatory safety talk (don't feed the bears honey or pic-a-nic baskets, don't poke the bears with sticks and, whatever you do, no matter how tempted you might be, don't go up and try to hug one or try to squash one of the baby bears into your bag to take home), we headed off in search of bears. This proved to be surprisingly easy, and before we had even crossed the bridge to head out to the river and the falls where the bears like to gather, we had spotted several. Crossing the bridge, however, proved to be a little more tricky and things all got a bit dicey a couple of times. At the safety talk (I was actually listening, honestly), we were told we had to stay at least 50 yards away from all bears and that bears always have the right of way (like I was going to be arguing with a 500lb stinky ball of hair covered in teeth and claws). So, when we saw a bear approaching us, I calmly turned around and told Mum that we should head back down the path. Oh, wait, there was another bear walking up the path behind us. Ahhh....hmmmm, perhaps we should nip into the woods a bit? Oh....oh dear.....there seems to be a bear heading towards from that direction too.
Have you ever wondered exactly how you would react in a real crisis, where lives might be on the line? Do you imagine yourself being all cool, calm and collected, saving the children and the pregnant women first and sacrificing yourself for the greater good? Well, here was my reaction:
Me (while grabbing my mother and pushing her between me and the nearest bear): "Take her. She is old. She has lived her life. I am still young; I have my whole life ahead of me! And I am one of her beneficiaries!"
Mum (not to be outdone): "No, take her; she is still young and tender. I am old and stringy. She has much more flesh on her bones."
Mum (as an aside to me): "Right, that is it; you are out of the will!"
Luckily for us, one of the bears decided to head off the path, down to the beach, leaving us an escape route. So, I pushed past my mother and made my escape. To be fair, I did pull her along behind me and did not completely abandon her to the other two bears. Not that any of them looked particularly interested in eating either one of us - they had salmon on their minds.....
Anyhoo, we did finally manage to reach the bridge and, after about half an hour of patiently waiting for the lounging bear to remove itself from the ramp leading onto the bridge, we finally made it to the viewing platforms above the Brooks River Falls. This is where all the heavyweights of the bear world were ..........
At its busiest, I counted 17 bears at the falls or just below them. The biggest and strongest bears got the best spots, right on or in the falls, while the smaller, younger bears were relegated to slightly less desirable real estate just downstream. Each bear seemed to favour its own fishing technique, probably related to how it was taught to fish and the location of the fishing site.
Here we can see what I term the "snorkelling" techniques, where the bear shoves its head under the water and wanders around looking for salmon.
Seemed to work for this guy.........
Then we have the "watch and leap" technique. All very energetic and entertaining, but not so successful.
The most successful of all of the bears was this one, who used the "wait until it leaps into your mouth" technique.
This guy was so patient, just staring into the water, not moving a muscle until, bam, a fish jumped close enough and his jaws slammed shut. And so ends the monumental and epic journey of a salmon........
........and the bear enjoys another salmon supper.
Another technique is the "sitting in the jacuzzi" technique.
Quite a few bears favoured this technique and they appeared to just be sitting there, but they must have been doing something under the water to locate the fish, since every-so-often a head would dive under the water and a salmon would be caught........
..........or perhaps not.
Now, bears are generally solitary animals, a little bit grumpy and a lot antisocial, so having so many bears in such a small area inevitably lead to a couple of arguments over fishing rights and territory. Many of the bears show wounds and scars to attest to the ferocity of some of the fights.
And, of course, you have to start training even while very young.......
There was also competition with the
Just a couple more photos to finish off this post. Of course, if you want to see even more, you can always go to my Facebook page. Just remember........enough photos to fill five editions of National Geographic....... Don't say I didn't warn you..........
|Spot the Bear|
|A Bear Bum.........snigger.....sorry, I couldn't help myself.|