There are good moments. Watching this cinnamon bear in the Sheep River Provincial Park with my family was one of them.
Update: Following friendly inquiries by Morgan and John, I had a closer look at my photos of this bear and agree this is a female and not a male. I always appreciate comments, corrections and questions – thank you both! I have corrected the text below to refer to her rather than him (anthropomorphic license to some but one I consistently prefer to take).
I made my first foray into Yellowstone National Park last May and enjoyed exploring new terrain – of which there is much and varied. The wildlife was abundant and I was lucky to have several encounters with bears that were fantastic. One of these was with this Black bear in the Tower-Roosevelt area. She had emerged into this clearing from a sheer cliff that leads down to the Yellowstone River (I would have loved to watch her scramble up the bank!) She shook herself out as she walked across wet morning grass and stopped under this tree. From the worn out ground under the tree, I think she and other bears frequent this spot often. The bear raised up on her hind legs and proceeded to enjoy a back scratching session for a couple of minutes.
With that important morning exercise completed, she shuffled through the grass munching on wildflowers before scrambling over a haphazard collection of fallen tree trunks. The bear’s small vale was just below a river viewpoint pullout so she had drawn a large crowd by this point. I enjoyed the quieter time earlier and left while she was still grazing amongst the deadfall.
On our last day in Jasper, Kian and I went for a walk along Pyramid Lake that morning. It was the first weekend of September so it was cool with a bit of mist on the water and the autumn colors were just starting to come in. We headed back to town around 9am and spotted a Black bear in the open forest above the road.
One bear soon became two when the other stepped out from behind a dense clump of Buffalo berries. The berries were ripe at that time so the bears had been drawn in. At first we thought they were a mother and cub but when they were side by side, and then when they were wrestling, we could see they were both the same size.
To me, they seemed like they were near adults and given their play fighting I think they are siblings that are still hanging out together. Whether related or not, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company and stayed close to each other as they munched through the patches of berries along the hillside.
When Kian and I left Jasper we headed home via Highway 93A, which runs parallel to the main road but was much quieter and proved to be a great start to the end of our boys weekend in the national park.
We spotted this black bear almost a kilometre ahead and it was kind enough to wait by the roadside until we drew near. When we pulled up beside, the bear had settled onto a Buffalo berry bush. The berries were pulled free, the bear slowly moved forward and my son and I watched as the moments crawled past. It was cool to share that experience with Kian.
This summer’s weather – rain and sunshine in a daily tug-of-war – has been a perfect gardener for the wild Buffalo berries. These have ripened over the past week or two and are drawing in the bears throughout Kananaskis. This Black bear made it easy for me to find him when he sauntered across the road a couple of hundred metres in front of me. I pulled up to find him standing up in the middle of a patch feasting on the berries.
They are a great source of calories for the bears so it is wonderful to see so much fruit this year. Some years are not nearly as abundant and it seemed like that was not lost on this beautiful bear. He appeared to be relishing almost every bite. The berries stretched back into the forest and he slowly made his way further back as he ate. I lost sight of him shortly after these pictures but could see branches bend and hear the odd one crack for several more minutes before he vanished back into the wilderness as they often do.
The Black bear that I photographed doing a bit of a dance while rubbing against a small tree continued on its path through the trees for a while before crossing the highway. It was early in the morning so no traffic interrupted him as he sauntered down the middle of the road for a couple of hundred metres.
Crossing a thin tree line, he grazed on spring flowers amid the tall grass while heading parallel to the road.
A while after that, he wandered close to the Athabasca River and grazed near the shoreline and even laid down for a short nap on a grassy spot.
A few minutes later, he moved into the trees and finding a new scratching post to rub against for a little while.
We went to Radium on the weekend in search of bears. The dandelions are in bloom in the roadside fields along Highway 93 in the Kootenay National Park that runs west from the British Columbia – Alberta border. These flowers represent one of the first key crops that the bears can graze on.
The narrow valley that winds down to the Kootenay River is beautiful with dense forest, mountain streams and a couple of small lakes. The last 15 kilometers of the highway hides the yellow patches around corners and draws bears consistently at this time of the year. During our visit we came upon a few individual bears munching away. Most drivers stayed in their vehicles and were generally respectful of the bears. A few exceptions, but on this trip at least, not the worst behaviour that I’ve seen.
With the bears not threatened, it was fun to watch them snack away, able to concentrate on eating rather than worrying about people. This black bear settled right down which I took as an indication that he was relaxed.
Later on, in another field, I saw him scrunch up his nose at one point. We left and when we drove by later the bear had also moved on. I’m not sure if the wrinkled nose was a sign of discomfort with the people and cars or he simply wanted to get back into the woods.
I loved the confidence shown by this bear as it strode across the road to a new field. I worry about the traffic but the drivers on this day were patient and no one rushed the crossing. Hope to see more and more of that level of awareness.
I would have liked to have seen a momma with a couple of cubs. Maybe they found secluded dandelion patches to enjoy in private. The bear below took a minute to stare up the hill under the heavy rain. I did not hear or see anything that would have warranted an alert stare but the bear obviously did.
It was great to see these bears. I hope to get out there again before the flowers turn to seed and these animals disappear back into the woods.
Driving up to the Highwood Pass in Kananaskis this black bear ran across the road a few hundred yards ahead of me. I pulled up where it had climbed the bank and saw it looking at me from the forest’s edge. A quick look and then it ran into the woods.
That reminded me of a slightly longer encounter I had in the spring near Radium with another black bear. The dandelions that spring up in thick carpets on the roadside fields draw the bears and this one was not deterred by a steady downpour.
The wet fur provided a great sheen and defined the coat well.
On the same trip through the Kootenay National Park in early June, I saw a second black bear grazing in another meadow. This one was a beautiful ginger colour – really beautiful. I’m hoping to get back into the mountains to enjoy the autumn season and see a bear or two soon.
Between Banff and Radium, in the Kootenay National Park, I found this young bear grazing on dandelions on a steep hillside at the forest’s edge. Probably three years old given the size but still impressive in appearance and bearing. I was happy to have a long lens to bring this one close.
This subspecies of the black bear has even earned its own formal name, Ursus americanus cinnamomum. They are beautiful animals no matter the color but it was great to see one that had such a distinctive rust hued coat. With the rain, the colors really saturated and created a sheen that worked at some angles but was a challenge at other ones.