A grizzly bear grazing and running in Kananaskis

One gorgeous blonde grizzly bear - © Christopher Martin-0061-2

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/2000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

Note: For this first image, I removed the wireless transmitter in the bear’s left ear which you will see in the subsequent images.  I don’t normally remove tags and such but this bear was so beautiful I had to share an image where the distracting antenna was erased.

On the weekend I drove along Highway 40 into Kananaskis Country where I had planned to head up to the Highwood Pass to see about the bighorn sheep that herd up there at this time of the year.  That did not happen as #40 is closed past the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park junction due to damage from the flood.  I was turning around at the gate to head down into the provincial park when I noticed a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) shuffling through the grass just off the road.

Heading downhill - 2013 © Christopher Martin-9975

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/2000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 800

This was one of the most beautiful grizzlies that I have ever seen.  A young brown bear that I would guess is three or four years old, with a lovely blonde coat and an energetic bounce in her step.  I believe the bear was a female although I could not confirm gender conclusively.  I was reminded of a pair of blonde cubs I photographed in the fall of 2011 about five miles away from here.  However, I cannot say whether this was one of these two bears as neither were tagged then and I did not find any references online to her tag number.

Bear lick - © Christopher Martin-0082

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1250th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

She was busying herself digging up rocks and snacking on what was found underneath.  Amid the tall grass, I did not get a clean look at what she was eating but I assume it was mostly insects.  She appeared to have little interest in the wildflowers surrounding her, as I only saw her stop to lick a few of the blossoms, but I loved having these colours to frame her with!

Run Bear Run - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0115

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1600th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

After about 15 minutes watching her from the far side of the road (being able to stay far away but photograph closeup is one of the nice benefits of long lenses), she started moving uphill and I thought she would head off shortly.  As it came to pass, that was hastened along only a few minutes later.  I had been the only person watching the bear at first but within 10 minutes there were a couple of other cars that had stopped too.  I was happy to see everyone stay in their vehicles and give the bear space.  We all watched for a while, then a couple more cars showed up so I pulled away from the gate, crossed the road, drove about 200m past the bear and stopped to have a last look.  Shortly afterwards, a conservation officer pulled up.  I was curious to see how he would approach this situation so I waited for a bit.  He stayed in his truck for a few minutes and then decided that was enough bear watching.  He stepped out with a shotgun in hand and fired a couple of bear banger shells while yelling at the bear to get going.  Startled by the loud noise – it did.

Galloping Grizzly - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1600th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

Banff National Park’s officers handle bears a bit different from what I have seen, and in a manner that I prefer, in that they usually do not interfere with bears unless people are being stupid or the bears show an interest in the people watching.  In my opinion, neither was true at that time.  However, this officer probably knows this bear by sight and he is there almost every day so I have to trust that he made the call as he deemed appropriate.  I would have liked to seen him take a little more time to let the bear continue, and potentially finish, grazing but keeping a bear from becoming habituated to humans is a thin tightrope to walk on.  It is easy for those watching to think they could do better.

A little high stepping - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0127

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1600th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

Nonetheless, with the first loud noise, the bear sprinted halfway up the hill before slowing down and glancing back at the officer.

Glancing back - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0133

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1250th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

With the second shot, she galloped further up and kept on towards the edge of the forest.  I  thought of the running fox that I photographed last month as I watched the bear run – though spurred on by different antagonists, they both can move very fast.  Seeing how much of the meadow it covered when it was sprinting, I was reminded just how quick, deceptively quick, these massive animals can move.   With the bear moving into the woods, I headed onwards.

Back to the woods - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0138

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

8 responses

  1. Ha! At first I thought that you meant that you physically removed the tag from its ear. Gorgeous bear. I saw one this colour, though a black bear last year.Good call, the ranger chasing it along before someone tried to get close or feed it. Glad you removed tag, find the tags annoying sometimes. It actually looks happy running through those beautiful flowers. Wonderful series, Christopher. Oh, how I am missing the mountains right now! 😦

    July 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

  2. Pingback: Thrilling Thursday: Thrilling Shots | Beauty through Photographs

  3. Deborah

    Beautiful captures! Extremely lucky to have seen this bear.

    July 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm

  4. Beautiful shots. The flowers add a nice touch. Back in June I saw a similar sized grizzly in that area but I just checked and it didn’t have the transmitter in its ear.

    July 24, 2013 at 10:17 am

  5. What wonderful photos! I learn a lot from your blog. This bear looks remarkably like a young grizzly I saw at Curator Lake campground in Jasper Nat’l Park (obviously not the same one). That bear was completely wild, and even though it wandered into the campground no more than 20 metres from where I was sitting, it quickly retreated when I stood up and showed it what I was. Both my camera and bear spray were in the tent at the opposite end of the campground. Lesson learned!

    July 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm

  6. Unfortunately I have to go to a Zoo to see a bear – I think these photos must make you so proud to have and look at even when you are sitting in your rocking chair on the porch 😉

    July 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm

  7. Such a gorgeous animal. I saw my first grizzly along Spray Lake outside of Canmore. It was exciting for me.

    July 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    • I’ve never had any luck around Spray Lake except for seeing deer. I agree, seeing bears (or any wildlife, for that matter) is always exciting for me too!

      July 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

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