Posts tagged “Grizzly Bear

A Grizzly Boar’s Breakfast in the Khutzeymateen

A Grizzly Boar's Breakfast in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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When the Grizzly Bears wake up from their hibernation in the mountains above the Khutzeymateen Inlet, the sedge grass is waiting for them.  When Bobbi and I were there in June breakfast, lunch and dinner for them finds sedge on the menu.   On this cold, wet morning this boar was one of several bears spaced out along the banks of the estuary at low tide mowing away.  The volume, of grass eaten and sound created, were both very impressive.


A Banff Grizzly on the move

A summer's walk - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I spent one morning in Banff on the weekend and came across a male Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) along the Bow Valley Parkway.  He spent some time in one roadside meadow chewing on a everything green he could see.

Stepping across the line - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DII and 70-200mm lens at 122mm: 1/250 second at f/4 on ISO 800

Before long, he crossed the road and then headed into the trees leaving a group of vehicles and their occupants behind.  I hoped he was heading towards a larger meadow about a mile east and drove there to wait and see.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 70-200mm lens at 149mm: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

Apparently the dandelions and lush vegetation were calling him and after not too long a wait he strode out of the forest and continued chowing down.  He stayed there for more than an hour, disappearing briefly a couple of times before finally heading deeper into the shadows.

Meadow lunch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/500 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Although winter felt slow to leave, the greenery now seems abundant and makes me hopeful this bear and the other animals in the park will enjoy a long summer feast.

In the garden patch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 1000


Side Sedging Grizzly

 

Side sedging Grizzly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 200-400mm f/4 IS EXT at 526mm: 1/320oth of a second on f/5.6 and ISO 2500

A Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) mows down sedge grass grown tall in the estuary of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  This boar was pretty nonchalant when we came upon him as we rounded one of the river channels that divides up the grassland at low tide.  He was sauntering along and sat down across from us to settle down for a snack.  When he turned his head sideways to chew away, it created an unusual look at this handsome fellow and his impressive chompers.


Spirits in the Khutzeymateen

The Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) rule the Khutzeymateen Inlet without challenge.  In June, the boars roam the fields of sedge grass and the creeks that drain out of the mountains looking for females to court.  The males are the kings but the mothers are the not only the queens, they are the heart and spirit of this land.  With their cubs there is a tenderness and caring that is plain to see and wonderful to watch.

Bear spirits - © Christopher Martin

This mother and cub spent a couple of days along the beach near where we moored the sailboat and we were able to watch them for many hours.  Here, they both looked up when a noise behind us drew their attention.  A great mother raising a beautiful cub.


A K’tzim-a-deen cub at rest

Bobbi and I just returned from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary where Dan and Sandy hosted us aboard the Sun Chaser sailboat and we spent many hours looking for, finding, photographing, discussing and dreaming about Grizzlies.  It was a magical experience and I have had little time to look at any images so far.

K'tzim-a-Deen Cub - 2014 © Christopher Martin

That said, this image of a cub resting on a rock is already a favorite of mine.  Mom brought this two-year old down to the beach in the bay where Dan enjoys anchoring several times.  They were both very relaxed about our presence, with the elder concerned only about Grizzly boars coming out of the forest edge.  Her back was often to our little raft scanning the tree line as she ate the sedge grass.  Meanwhile the cub, free from much – though not all – of this worry, watched us in-between explorations nearby, feasting on vegetation and mewling for milk.


Grizzly Bear Travels

Cub on patrol - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The four days I spent in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in August were incredible.  I’ve posted a number of images, bears and other wildlife, frequently over the two and half months since returning.  From a productive photography perspective, the trip was a success by any measure.  Alongside the images I came back with are the memories of individual encounters, the surprise of a seal popping up beside the boat as well of a pod of orcas transiting by at a distance and good deal more.  I’ve saved my favourite bear encounter for the last.

Coastal traveler - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After a couple of days of heavy rain, the third day in the inlet was cold but clear.  Not long after dawn broke we were in the zodiac floating at the mouth of a creek where the salmon were running up.  Along with a mixed flock of gulls, we were waiting in the hopes that a bear would materialize out of the rainforest and start fishing.  A bit restless, I let my eyes wander along the shoreline across the water.  On one sweep of the kelp covered rocks exposed during the low tide, I caught a bit of movement.  Through a lens, I could make out an adult padding along eastwards towards the estuary.  Drawing closer, we saw a second bear skip out of the dark shadows the forest still held on to.

Furry and Feisty - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This ball of fur was a cub, a first year, and for the next hour we paralleled their passage over rock, under tree and across stony beaches.

The mother was cautious when she heard the boat but Dan Wakeman, the captain of the Sun Chaser and our guide, has been in the inlet for the past thirty-five summers and as we pulled within twenty-five yards of the shoreline, she recognized her fellow resident and carried on with few second glances thereafter.

2013 © Christopher Martin

The cub was far more curious about us than its parent was.  A few times it pulled up, stared in the zodiac’s direction and huffed.  Mom’s only notice of the behaviour came the times when there was too much huffing and not enough walking.  At those times, she would huff and the little one would scurry back in step.

Berry hunters in the forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They weren’t racing along the shore but it did seem that she had a place she wanted to be.  Presumably it was the easy fishing grounds of the estuary at low tide.   There was still time to stop and snack on berries in a heavily wooded chute.

Listening for trouble - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Mom may not have been worried about us but she was on alert for other bears.  The boars can attack a mother and her cubs at any time so she would stop and have a listen, a sniff and a look now and again.

Slippery rocks - 2013 © Christopher Martin

There was no trail that they were following as this shoreline spends half the time underwater.  The wet kelp, rocks and edge grass would have seen me sliding all over the place if I was covering the same ground.  With their padded feet and surprising agility, these Grizzlies had few slips and little trouble navigating the terrain.

Beach walk - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They reached the estuary and moved down onto the beach above.  From there they strode away towards the channels where the river was channeled with the tide out.  Salmon were surely on the menu.  We crossed the inlet and there was already an understanding that this had been a very special encounter.  This is a small glimpse into the magic and majesty of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  I will be returning in June to see the bears as they’ve emerged from hibernation and are busy eating the sedge grass, raising cubs and coupling up – I honestly can’t wait.


A Grizzly on the move

Blondie's bear stare - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After flying into the Khutzeymateen Provincial Park by float plane in the early afternoon, we moved all of our gear onto the Sun Chaser which was our base of operations for the four days spent in the inlet.  The captain, Dan Wakeman, sailed us east towards the end of the inlet for a couple of miles and then weighed anchor in a beautiful little cove.  We set up for shooting and hopped into Dan’s inflatable zodiac boat to look for bears.  Earlier we had passed a river and watched a dark coloured Grizzly slip into the shadows of the rainforest.  Now on a more mobile vessel, with shallow draft and a strong outboard, we headed back and went upriver about one hundred metres to see if the bear had lingered in the area.  It did not reappear and we soon headed down to the estuary and the main river flowing out of the mountains there.  We waited and watched but found no bears on that first visit to the head of the valley.  I didn’t mind, the scenery was beautiful and I enjoyed building a familiarity with the land.  Dan has spent the non-winter months of each of the last 35 years in the Khutzeymateen and it was a great to soak up some of the knowledge he freely shared as we trolled around and watched for wildlife.  We headed back to the Sun Chaser and spotted a female Grizzly who was picking dead salmon out of the sedge grass.  They get caught in there during the high tide when the meadows are covered and having spawned do not have the energy to untangle themselves.

Finishing off dinner - 2013 © Christopher Martin
With the Grizzly finishing off a fish, Dan introduced her as Blondie.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, she had been blonde as a cub and a few long tufts of hair behind her ears had stayed with her into adulthood.  She hunted in the grass for a bit longer and then went fishing in the river.  She splashed around a bit but pretty quickly headed to the grassy field on the far side and resumed looking for salmon there.

River crossing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

She paused frequently to smell the air.  Lifting her nose up and looking around it seemed likely there was another bear in that area, perhaps the dark bear seen earlier.  She was wary and Dan was not surprised when she pointed east and left the grass for the slippery rocks exposed during low tide.  She was heading for the estuary where the majority of the salmon run and the hunting can be very productive for the bears.

An easier path to the estuary - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With the full moon pushing and pulling water down the long Khutzeymateen Inlet, there was a difference of six metres between high tide and low tide.  When the water was up, it came right to bottom branches of the trees on the edge of the rainforest.  When it is low, many of the bears use the easier path along the exposed band of lichen and kelp covered rock to cover ground.

Bear claws - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With rain now moving from a drizzle to a steady downpour, we settled into a rhythm with Blondie paralleling her as she walked and swam along the coastline.  We moved with her for the better part of an hour.  She disappeared into the forest in a couple of impassable spots and then re-emerged again.  Twice she slipped into the water and paddled along that route for a while before making landfall and carrying on.

You should be swimming too - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This was an incredible opportunity to watch a Grizzly bear move through her environment at her pace, undisturbed by us due to Dan’s understanding of this population and this specific animal.  We met up with Blondie again a couple of days later and I will share that story in another post.

Along the forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Along the shoreline - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Bear hurdles - 2013 © Christopher Martin

At the next meadow of sedge grass she pawed at the ground in a couple of places, sniffed at the air a couple of times and then walked into the trees to a trail that Dan has seen which leads to the estuary still a mile further down the inlet.  We parted company and returned to the Sun Chaser for our own dinner.


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


Tonquin Valley Caribou

I was in the Tonquin Valley west of Jasper last year and on the first evening along Amethyst Lake, I had an opportunity to photograph a pair of forest caribou (R. tarandus caribou).  I had never seen this distinct species of deer in the wild before.  This cow had led her calf down to the wildflower meadows along the shoreline and they grazed with enthusiasm while I hovered around a 100 yards away.

Our guide had said there was a grizzly roaming around the lake under The Ramparts and the caribou were wary as a result.  We didn’t see the young boar until the next day when we were photographing landscapes on the far side of the valley.  We were universally facing south photographing the mountains closing the southern end of the Tonquin as seen below.

I looked around at one point and my eyes caught sight of a large bear shuffling over the field of boulders a couple of hundred metres behind us.  He headed off when he saw us staring his way.  We walked parallel for a while before losing sight of him.  He had picked up speed and swam across a shallow gap and galloped into the trees there.

Another place that I’m excited to return to sooner than later.


Grizzly bear cub and a couple of trees

I was in Jasper photographing for a few days with a couple of good friends.  We had one day where we were able to get some glass on two separate mothers with their cubs.  One family was just the mother and her cub and it was this cub who proved to be an adept tree climber.

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The pair was snacking on berries when the little one trotted over to a tall tree and then shot up the trunk.  It stopped about 40′ up and looked around for a bit.  At that point we weren’t sure whether there would be a descent down the bark or a fall.

It was amazing to watch the bear when it decided to come down.  I can only describe it as a vertical slide and a very quick one.  The cub went back to mom and they foraged along for a while.  Then it climbed another tree, stayed up to enjoy the bird’s-eye view and then slid back down.  Very fast, very natural and really a treat to see this rascal go.

On the ground the bear did not appear agitated so I believe it was climbing out of curiosity and, possibly, just for the fun of it.


Banff Wildlife: Grizzly #64 and her cubs

 

This cub is one of three two-year olds growing up in the Banff National Park under their mother’s attentive guidance and watchful gaze. I spoke with one of the conservation officers on Sunday and he knew much about this little family.  I was happy to hear that the mother is roughly twenty years old.  When Dave told me that it made me hopeful that her experience will help her bring all three cubs to maturity.  A great addition to the overall Grizzly population in the park.  First, a bit about this encounter and then some details about the mother bear and her story.

The snow the day before had given way to rain by Sunday morning.  The wet hairs glistened as did the foliage which made added some interest to the images.  The family was grazing near the roadside but were still in pretty deep forest so the dark scene was a puzzle to work with.  We were able to stay in the car and use long lenses to fill the frames with the bears.  A safe way to encounter bruins and they carried on with very little intrusion from our car and the couple of others that came and went. 

The bears laid down at one point for a short snooze.  Two of the little bears curled in with their mom while the third draped over her shoulder hump.  I didn’t have a good angle on that moment but it was really nice just to see.   After about half an hour, the bears moved on shuffling deeper into the forest and disappeared quickly. 

 

Bear #64 is a well-known bear in the Banff area.  John Marriott wrote a post that touches on her while telling the tragic story of the loss of bears #109 and #108.  108 was five-and-a-half years old when she was hit by a car on July 11, 2011.  109 was her twin sister and had been run over by a train the year before.  If I had a wish I would spend it on helping these young cubs growing to an age where my kids are driving up on their own to photograph them with their own cubs.    


Kananaskis Wildlife: A Blond Grizzly Sow and Two Cubs

 

Following on from my encounter with the moose calf and mother, I drove further along the Highwood Pass section of Highway 40 in Kananaskis and saw this mother grizzly bear leading her two cubs along the forest’s edge parallel to the road. 

The color of these bears is fantastic. Blond is not exceptionally rare but is still striking to see.  I stayed up on the road and watched them move swiftly through the dense underbrush before crossing the pavement and disappearing down into the valley. 

 

I hope their momma can guide these two cubs into adulthood avoiding the dangers of the road and the rails that have impacted the grizzly population in the Rockies.  They are incredible animals.