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Thread: A Few more Bears

  1. #1

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    A Few more Bears

    Finally had a few minutes to go through some more of my shots from last week at Katmai NP. This area during salmon season is a target rich environment for photography. The bears know when the salmon are there and they show up in numbers to harvest the catch. For coastal brown bears the salmon run is their main source of food to build the fat reserves that they need to make it through the winter. I took the following shot just to show how many bears show up. There are nine in this frame and there were a total of 16 in view when I took the shot. Some of the less dominant bears fish further downstream and there were a couple visible in the bushes above the river sleeping off the heavy meal they just finished. None of the bears in this shot are the truly massive dominant males. These are your average bruins around 800lb (350kg) each.

    A Few more Bears

    In this next shot one of the truly massive (over 1000lb) bruisers is in the frame. For reference the bear in the middle of these three is the same bear at middle top of frame in the previous shot. Note the patterns of bald/molting patches in the fur. In the previous shot he is occupying the prime spot held by the larger bear in this shot.

    A Few more Bears

    The bear in the bottom of the previous frame occupied the same spot just downstream of that tree branch the entire time that I was there. He had an interesting method of fishing. I never saw him catch a fish but every time another bear caught one he would dash over, position himself downstream as the other bear ate its catch, and sit there woefully moaning while the other bear ate. Interestingly his tactic worked as every once in a while one of the dominant bears would strip the prime cuts from a fish then drop it for this guy to finish. Here is "Panhandler" in action.

    A Few more Bears

    It's not all salmon and roses at the fishing hole. All of the bears carry many scars from disagreements.

    A Few more Bears

    Here is a little more artsy version of a group scene.

    A Few more Bears

    I'll post another installment with more detailed single bear shots after I do some more editing.

  2. #2
    Digital's Avatar
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Excellent wildlife photographs, Dan.

    Bruce

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Very beautiful pictures, thank you for posting again.

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Great stuff Dan, I really enjoyed these. It must be wonderful to experience such a sight first hand.

    Dave

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    One of the joys of wildlife shooting is finding opportunities like this Dan

    Knowing when and where "right time, right place" happens, makes all the difference

    Great series of shots,

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Really great stuff here!

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    That's a lot of bear!!! Wish we could all see that in person!! Thanks for sharing these!!

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    jprzybyla's Avatar
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Magnificent... truly a sight to behold. Thanks for sharing Dan.

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Gorgeous... Like a National Geographic slide show... thanks for sharing.

  10. #10

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Thanks, folks. Glad you like the photos. It was really interesting just watching all the interactions among the bears. One negative aspect of spending a lot of time looking through a long lens is that you miss a lot of stuff that's going on outside your frame. Then again when I did watch I would jump around from one bit of interesting behavior to the next. One of the lessons I learned from this outing was that I should have picked an animal and stuck with it no matter what else was happening.

  11. #11
    Ken Curtis's Avatar
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Outstanding photos, Dan.

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Dan,

    Wow! I never saw that many bears together. How far away were you?

    The pictures are beautiful.

    Ali

  13. #13

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Thanks, Guys. Ali I was on the shooting platform. The bears across the river are probably 150ft away. Some bears literally walked under the platform so maybe five feet away. And every range in between. Zoom lens was definitely useful.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Just to add my praise to that already recorded above. A wonderous event, wonderfully photographed.

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Beautiful. I want to go there

  16. #16
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    The big male in number two is a very impressive specimen. The muscle mass in his shoulders, upper forelimbs and neck is massive. Just curious; once these guys get this size do the other bears back off immediately or do some challenge?

    When I was taking range ecology at university we had a talk from a biologist who was working on grizzlies and he showed a video of a male flipping over a boulder to dig out marmots. He moved the rock like it was a piece of styrofoam, They later used the net, scale and helicopter, used to weigh the darted/radiocollared animals, to weigh the boulder; it was two tonnes. It took six men plus the aid of the helicopter to roll the boulder into the net. This guy looks even bigger than that bear.

  17. #17

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    The strength of bears is hard to believe unless your seeing it. I have seen little blackbears tear into logs and roll logs that I could not budge or pull the bark off. When I see a bear , that's usually as close as I go.

  18. #18

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    ...Just curious; once these guys get this size do the other bears back off immediately or do some challenge?...
    Trevor, I'm sure that sooner or later the big boys have to sort out who's the biggest. While I was there I saw this guy and one other who were clearly much larger than everyone else. In twelve hours or so of total observation time over two day I never saw both of the really big guys there at the same time. And whenever one of them showed up all the other bears moved aside and moved out of the prime fishing spot without any hesitation. The big guys would come down off the hill and stand on the river bank for a couple of minutes, no doubt silently announcing their presence. Then they would slowly plod out to the prime spot while all the other bears cleared them a path.

    Coastal brown bears get substantially larger than interior grizzlies. Better food supply and a shorter hibernation cycle. Interior bears top out at about 800lbs while coastal brownies are routinely over 1000lbs and 1200lbs is not unusual. The rangers at Katmai claim to have seen one or two that they estimated (purely visually) to be up to 1500lbs. The interior bears tend to have the more distinctive hump, some suggest due to digging more. Some of the effect is also purely visual because they get more sun and the fur on their backs bleaches out accentuating the hump.

    All of the full adult bears had horrific scars and fresh wounds on various parts of their bodies, mostly head and neck but some further down. The one that I call "Panhandler" had a big scar on his hip, presumably from getting bit while in full retreat. On the second day he also had a fresh open wound on his forehead.

  19. #19
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    Re: A Few more Bears

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    ...One negative aspect of spending a lot of time looking through a long lens is that you miss a lot of stuff that's going on outside your frame. Then again when I did watch I would jump around from one bit of interesting behavior to the next. One of the lessons I learned from this outing was that I should have picked an animal and stuck with it no matter what else was happening.
    That's really difficult to do. I find that I'm no good at that until I've got a collection of that species in the Library and even then I tend to get all excited and forget myself. But then again, I guess that means we're enjoying what's going on. Since I'm not a pro trying to get that money shot, I can afford to enjoy the action.

    I'd say though that whatever your methods, you came away with some awesome stuff. All of these bears you've posted have been wonderful. Thanks for sharing with us!

  20. #20

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    Re: A Few more Bears

    A beautiful set of photos. They along with your explanation, tell one fantastic story. I'd like to know more about where you were in relation to all this, I realize you are using a long lens, but where were you? What was your escape? Great shots for sure.

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