Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bears Grazing? in the Meadow

July 17-20th - We spent a lot of time watching the bears in the meadow. I never knew that bears would graze on grass.
They looked a bit like big, stocky bison-like animals when they had their head down, grazing.
They chomped….and chomped…..We noted at least 6 different bears as we watched, and began to tell them apart.
This is a momma Grizzly…..she was the most magnificent looking bear……
And her totally cute and fuzzy cub…..
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This bear we called ‘No Pants’……she was in the middle of shedding her winter fur.
‘No Pants’ on the left, always looked grumpy. In contrast, the bear on the right, seemed downright happy.
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Who could resist this smile?…..
Bear watching was a quiet activity. The bears would amble around…..
Coming remarkably close to us. We had several bears pass within 10 yards of where we were.
Sometimes I could get a nice face shot…..
But, much of the time the bears would turn their backside to us….in a kind of “I don’t care about you” attitude.
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We were able to watch the bears just sit and relax. The object behind this bear is not a toy ball, but a buoy that had floated in during a storm.
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This bear is scratching an itch. As they shed their winter fur coat, it itches……
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And speaking of itches……The mosquitoes bothered the bears as much as they bother us.
The weather was a nice sunny 55-60 degrees…..hot for a bear. After grazing through the meadow, the bears would wander  over for a drink…..sometimes lying in the water to cool off.
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This one curled up on the creek bank to take a nap.

We watched this bear when it woke up, it spotted the other female bear, the one that it had skirmished with on the tidal flats. These two were definitely engaged in a battle for dominance, and it is easy to tell which bear came out behind on this exchange.
Other bears would occasionally just sit and enjoy the view right along with us.
Ahhh…..Life is good!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Shooting Bears in The Meadow

July 17-20th - Once we had gotten to the clearing with the meadow grasses, we stopped…..and looked around to see if any bears were about.
If we spotted a bear, and we usually spotted several, spread out around the meadow ………
The guide would help get us into position to be able to photograph the bears. That’s me (Sue) with the blue day pack and ball cap (and curly hair) and DeWayne, our guide, to my far right.
To get into position to be able to observe the bears, we would walk single file, grouped close together, following the guide. This is Simyra, one of the owners of Hallo Bay, leading another group. You do NOT want to sneak up on a Brown bear…..They are not like deer or caribou that you have to stalk. When startled, they do not run. Instead, they are likely to attack! It is much better to walk out in the open, keep talking, and let the bears know that you are coming. 
The guides did not carry firearms or pepper spray. They carried a marine safety flare that they have found to be more effective to ward off an attack. They have only had to use the flare 4 times in 25 years, and have never had a client injured by a bear. Avoidance of an attack is the key. We all simply conducted ourselves in a non-threatening way….sitting down, staying grouped together, and not making  any sudden moves or loud noises.

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These bears, as bears would be in the wild,  have had no positive or negative experiences with humans. They do not associate people with food….we are not on their menu…..and they have not had any occasion to get food from people, either through trash or camp food. They are not hunted, nor have they been captured or otherwise mistreated.
As we would sit and watch and photograph the bears, we could talk quietly…
Move about a bit, even eat our lunch. It seemed that they took no more notice of us than they did of the drift wood we sat on.
And if we did catch their attention, the guide might just start calmly talking to the bear…..to let them know that everything was OK.
We were instructed that if a bear were to be approaching us a bit too closely, the guide might stand up and ‘shoo’ him off…but we could feel free to keep on taking pictures. : )
We might spend several hours at a time in the meadow observing the different bears……..
We would watch as they moved about eating, or occasionally interacting with each other…..
And we would head back out to the meadow in the evening, when the lighting was especially spectacular……It was an awesome experience to be able to just ‘be’ a part of this world.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trails - to the Tidal Flats and to the Meadow and the Creek

July 17-20th- Each day at Hallo Bay, we would go out with the guide, in search of the bears. After checking the tidal flats out in front of the camp, we would walk down the beach a ways, then cut across the peninsula to the opposite tidal flats via Nancy’s Trail, or by another wonderful trail known as the ‘Adventure Trail’.


Nancy’s Trail, which was named for a bear, and with good reason….. these trails were just the usual paths that the bears took through the woods…… was the longer trail, but a nice walk on a fairly dry trail through a pretty section of woods.


Our guide would point out the various plants as we walked and talked about the herbal or medicinal uses of each. This walk took about 45 minutes to reach the tidal flats on the other side.

The other, more frequently traveled path was the cut through trail, otherwise known as the ‘Adventure Trail’.


This trail took about 30 minutes, but it crossed 4 sections of boggy, marshy areas with mud……


MUD! Ankle deep……We would step…and sink….and pull our feet out…and step again.


And standing water……. We were told that this trail had been dry until several weeks before, when it had rained for 2 weeks straight. Now, we hiked through troughs of water.


We slogged……stepping into hidden mud holes that sunk me calf deep. I had to watch each step to avoid stepping in over my boots.

After my first walk on this trail, I thought, “OK, I made it…..surely we won’t do that again”. But we did! We hiked it out and back again that evening, and twice a day the next two days. I kind-of got used to it,  but my leg muscles were sore from pulling my feet out of the mud.

Our purpose was to hike out to find where the bears were feeding. Usually, the tidal flats at low tide…..then the meadow in the afternoon and again in the evening. The salmon had not started running in the nearby creek. They were due any time, now, but were just beginning to show up in the waters off the beach area.  Once the salmon arrive, the bears would feed only on the rich, fatty salmon, foregoing the tidal flats and meadow altogether.


Our second morning at Hallo Bay, we walked around the beach area in the opposite direction than the meadow, towards the creek, to see if there was any activity there.


It was quiet, the salmon were not yet running, though there was a lot of footprint evidence of bears, and a wolf, strolling along the banks.


We hiked up creek quite a ways……..It didn’t really matter that we did not find the bear or the wolf that belonged to the prints. It was enough to just sit and soak up the glory of the day.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Clamming on the Tidal Flats

The bears like to hang out on the tidal flats at low tide, digging up clams and eating them. When the bears emerge from hibernation in the spring, they are under a biological imperative to EAT….they spend most of their day searching out food, eating and gaining weight and putting on fat for the following winter. We watched a number of bears out on the tidal flats.
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The bears have a very keen sense of smell. They can smell a clam as far as 3 feet under the sand.
The bears would dig a clam out, then place it on the back of their paw, pry it open, and eat the clam.
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Bears and seagulls make good partners. It seems that each bear has a gull that follows them around looking for leftovers.

Most of the time, adult bears seem to hang out by themselves,,,,,,,but, once in a while they feel a need to assert themselves…..
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We watched these two females over several days……they seemed to be trying to determine which one was the ‘bigger bear’. This dominance order is important and determines who gets the best/most food, best spot to hang out, etc..
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All of the posturing and body language culminated in this brief chase. Problem solved…..for the moment.