Saturday, August 8, 2020

Alaska Brown Bears - Day 5


Day 5 – Wed July 29

Started off the morning, getting up early, as there were already 3 bears on the beach shortly after sunrise.  

The first bear we saw was a youngster and he left pretty quick after we got there, passing by us and heading in the direction we had just come from.  We could see that there was a sow and cub heading into the main river area and think that maybe the young bear didn't want to deal with a protective mom this early in the morning.

First bear of the morning but he didn't stick around long

In just a matter of minutes there were three different mama bears heading our way, each with a single cub tagging along side them. Two of the cubs were spring cubs and the third was at least 2 years old now.  We took our spots along the river again, this time making sure we would have much better light working in our favor than we'd had the afternoon before.

Each set of bears reached the river and looked around,  but none of the them seemed to be too serious about fishing yet this morning and mostly seemed content with eating grass and wandering up and down the river giving halfhearted attempts at fishing.  We just sat there enjoying the small parade going past us as the bears would slowly head up the river and out of site.  

The soon to be "bullies" showed up first

They slowly crossed the river looking around but not really fishing

They made one last pass before heading up river and out of site for a while

The second sow and cub of the morning.  She would turn out to be the most dominant

They were confident as they approached the river

Mama spent a little time looking for fish, but didn't see any she liked I guess.  The cub was more interested in watching us.

At one point, a young sow and her cub were just getting to the river to the left of us, when the sow that had passed us earlier with the older cub started coming back downstream.  The two year old cub must have been feeling his oats this morning because he locked eyes with the young mom and cub and started to hurry down the river in their direction, and the young sow and cub got scared to took off running the back the way they came from.  The older cub seemed pretty proud of himself and then him and the mama bear went to check out the area they'd just chased the other two away from.  They spent a lot of time sniffing every rock and blade of grass the other two had touched, and reminded me of how dogs act when they can smell another dog in their area.

Young sow and her spring cub

She seemed the most cautious of the three mamas this morning

She suddenly had to scratch that itch

The bullie cub saw the sow and her cub as she scratched on the rocks

After looking like he might chase them, he slowed down and just stared as they ran off

Now looking back up river, we saw the first sow and her spring cub heading down the river in our direction again.  Now it was the bullies turn to have the tables turned on them.  The bully sow stood on her hind legs staring up the river at the two coming her way and watched them for a few minutes like that.  He cub started to get nervous too and at one point stood up on his hind legs as well, only he was looking everywhere but up river.  LOL  Now these two decided they'd better get out of there and they quickly left the river bank, away from the two they had chased off just 10 minutes before.  It was funny to see how fast the tide had changed and to watch the hierarchy between the bears play out in front of us like that.  It was obvious that out of the three mama bears in the meadow this morning, this one headed our was was the dominant one.

He come the dominant sow and her cub again

The bullies suddenly don't seem so sure of themselves

The smell of victory - or the smell of the scared bears.  Depends on  your perspective.

The new dominant mama and her very active and brave young’un pranced around, sniffing the grass that the others had just vacated, and then wandered back and forth kind of watching to make sure the area was now theirs…. Not that they did any fishing or anything exciting with it now that everyone had been scared away.  They wandered around for a while and then slowly drifted off into the high grass.

The mama and cub spent quite a bit of time wandering around, eating grass but never fished

After a short break of not much happening we then saw a series of individual bears come down the river, walking past us and watching the river but not really seeing any salmon in there, they headed into the meadow to eat grass.   It was only just as we thought we might head back to the boat that a bigger bear started down the river towards us, and then proceeded to fish the river about 10 feet in front of us for the next 30 minutes.  He splashed up and down the deep part of the river in front of us, getting up on his back legs to get a better view of the fish and once again splashing around like crazy trying to catch them.  He managed to finally catch one and took it up on the far bank to devour the entire fish.  The funny part was just as he took his last bite he saw another salmon flash by and he was racing into the river splashing around again trying to grab it before he probably swallowed the last of the first fish.   When he missed, he climbed back out of the river and want over to make sure he had indeed finished the first one off… before getting back in the river and starting the whole dance all over again.  It made for some great photos ops and even got a little video footage of him splashing around.

Solo bear time

Watching for fish but didn't see any he liked

Now this bear has a hankering for some salmon

He decided he wasn't going to mess around and got busy right away

See how easy that was?

Gotta get high to see through the glare of the water

He saw it, but just didn't catch it

Once he decided he was tired and wasn’t going to catch anything else… he headed back up the river and we went back to the boat for lunch.

Went back to the land after a nice break and found 4 bear there…. Two totally sleeping away in the heat of the afternoon.  We watched a couple of other bears come and go right past us, all the while watching the river but not seeing enough fish to catch their interest I guess and on they went.  Not a whole lot happened this evening with the bears….  Although we had a couple of really close passes by younger bears as they just kept moving around us, teasing us with the idea we might get another fishing exhibition.  As the sun went down behind the mountain we decided to call it a day and headed back toward the pick-up spot for the boat… passing 4 bear on the way…. Two sleeping and two just eating grass.   By now that has become so common a site that we barely even paid attention to them.   We’re hoping for cooler weather tomorrow which hopefully will leave the bears with more energy than they showed us today. 

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