~ ALASKA BROWN BEARS ~


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Introduction




The majestic Brown Bear is an iconic wildlife in Alaska. Reaching a weight of 1,500 pounds the adult Brown Bears of the Katmai National Park and Kodiak Island are truly impressive. Standing nearly 10 feet tall on their hind legs, they command respect in the animal world.











  Common Names:
  Scientific Name:
  Brown Bear, Grizzly Bear
  Ursus arctos
  Class:
  Diet:
  Mammalia
  Omnivore
  Range:
  North America, Northern Eurasia
  Height (on 4 Legs):
  Height (Upright):
  Weight:
  3.5 to 5 feet
  7 to 10 feet
  400 to 1,500 pounds


To the unwary human however, looks can be deceiving. The Brown Bear is no teddy bear in the wild and can become an extremely dangerous animal.

In spite of their huge size and weight, Brown Bears are surprisingly fast, and with their relatively small eyes, it is often difficult to read a Bear's expression.

Humans are no match against a Brown Bear, so it is recommended to keep a safe distance.





Katmai National Park


A short scenic flight departing from Homer takes us to bear country in Katmai National Park. The hydroplane lands in Hallo Bay, across from Kodiak Island, and we are immediately immersed in a virtually pristine wilderness. The landscape is breathtaking with snowy mountains feeding clear streams and overlooking vaste grassy meadows.




However, while admiring the beautiful landscape, the discovery of a huge paw inprint in the mud is an unmistakable reminder that we are now in the land of the Bears. And indeed, to complete the picture, several coastal Brown Bears soon make their appearance ...





Brown Bear Diet in Hallo Bay



Brown Bears are omnivores and well adapted to the changes of the seasons. In mid June, they remain concentrated mostly along the coastline. At this time of the year, the vegetation is abundant in the tidal meadows of Hallo Bay. This big Bear is munching on some tender blades of grass which are a good source of nutrients and minerals.

Several weeks later, they will start moving inland to feed on some fat rich Salmon.




This big Bear must have gotten a clue of our presence with its sensitive nose but is just ignoring us because we are no threat to him. We are problaby not the reason why the Bear is lifting its nose (photo at right). Indeed, June is mating season and it is trying to smell the air for pheromones from a nearby female.






Bears Wandering on the Beach


We also stumble across a few coastal Brown Bears roaming the beaches of the Alaska Peninsula. The last photo shows a Bald Eagle on a branch as a Bear walks by in this beautiful natural setting.







Too Close for Comfort


While hiking the meadows, we come face to face with another Brown Bear. But this is one is huge, and there is really not much that separates us from this massive predator: just a few blades of grass and thin air. The Bear is moving towards us, and the 40 foot distance soon becomes 20. Or is it 30? The sheer size of this animal fools your senses and makes you believe it is really close to you.



The Bear sweeps its head left and right as it continues to approach, and at every sweep, it throws an inquiring glance at us. Our eyes lock for a fraction of a second, but it feels like an eternity. In this tense moment, you hope it hasn't noticed you, although it is well aware of your presence. You can't help but think that you are intruding on its space and that this Bear must be hungry being just a few months out of hibernation.
















From Katmai with Love - Bear Hugs

These two Bears have found each other and can't wait to give themselves a hug. Watching them play together and enjoying these moments of tenderness, we can't help but think that they behave just like humans. Although this is not uncommon, it is priceless to witness this kind of interaction in the wild.








Brown Bear in the Grass



A Brown Bear emerges from the tall grass. This one seems to be a large male, and although it appears quite big, we need to keep in mind that it has not yet reached its maximum weight at this time of year: it's only June and coastal Bears are feeding mostly on grass. As the summer progresses, they will switch to a Salmon rich diet which will enable them to substantially increase their weight.


Alaska Caribou Picture







Big Old Bear Walking

A little later, a brown spot in the middle of the green meadow catches our attention. As the ball of fur comes closer, we realize that it's an old lone bear. It's the oldest one we've seen today, but it's just as impressive as the other ones.









Hallo Bay Landscape

The Alaska Peninsula is home to a large concentration of Brown Bears. A few trees are visible from a distance but the coastal region directly surrounding Hallo Bay is mostly flat with low grass. There are mountains just a few miles to the North and West of the Bay. Kodiak Island is about 40 miles to the East. Hallo Bay is only accessible by plane or boat.








Brown Bear in the Flood Plains

The water had receded from the flood plains of Hallo Bay, leaving a fresh new playground for this young Brown Bear to explore.







A Blond Bear?


During our hike in Katmai, We encountered several bears with a very light shade of brown. Under the sunlight, the fur appeared almost blond to our eyes, although the camera could not render the exact same hue.






Katmai Bears


These same Brown Bears currently seen grazing the coastal areas will be moving inland in a few months. They will meet in great numbers at Brooks Falls or along the McNeil River to feast on the thousands of salmon returning to their birth place to spawn.


Bear viewing in Hallo Bay provides another experience in a setting that is quite different from the McNeil River. Indeed, at the Bay, you won't be able to take the typical pictures of bears catching a salmon jumping out of the water.






Portraits of a Brown Bear


This bear is taking a rest in the middle of the meadow. It is just sitting and looking around, left and right. This reprieve allowed us to take some close portraits of the bear.









Bear Interaction


A group of 4 bears is spotted in a distance. Brown Bears are sociable animals and seeing them in groups is not unusual.











Bear Taking a Nap







It's early on a sunny afternoon and the gentle warmth from the sun is coaxing the bear to a little nap along the sandy river banks. The salmon are not here yet, so what's the hurry?









Coastal Brown Bears in Hallo Bay




Another series of pictures of Hallo Bay bears during our trip. Here again, the bears were a little too close for comfort.












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