Day 5: Second Day Out. Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Clear skies greeted me today and I had a good nights sleep. For some reason, I keep waking up at 5:30 to 6:00. I got up and took care of the usual morning business, including some hot chocolate in my system to get me going.

Our daily 9:00 a.m. meeting determines all are in favor of going out at 10:00 a.m. to start the bear viewing day. I brought along my GPS receiver today so I could mark a few spots as well as record a track of our travels. I hope to use GPS Visualizer to overlay the tracks in Google Earth ® . I have never recorded tracks from my GPSr, so will see how that works out. At minimum, I will book-mark several locations here at McNeil.

Within a few minutes of leaving camp, we saw bears and realized it will be a nice day for both weather and bear watching. Although it’s cold, everyone is dressed in layers, so we will be ok. As we headed out towards the river, we saw several bears feeding on the rich grasses out in the sedge flats. We stopped and counted twelve bears around the area. So early in the day, the count is good.

Surrounded by Bears

Across the Mikfik, we headed to the grassy flats paralleling the river. We started working several bears and they were at ease with us around. For about thirty minutes, the group photographed them before heading to the center of the sedge flats where we photographed more bears. At one time, we had ten bears around us to photograph. It was really amazing to be surrounded by that many bears. Several of them got into some kind of scuffle and darted toward the group, coming within twenty-five feet from us before stopping to eat more grass. We were photographing them like crazy and they just kept on eating, occasionally lifting their heads to look at us. For several hours, we photographed them before taking a break. It will be hard to beat that action, but maybe we will get lucky on our return.

Video

With several hours remaining in the day, we mucked towards camp and saw more bears up ahead. Still too far away to see if we have male or female bears in the distance, as we neared, we saw two cubs playing near a sand bar.

We crossed the river, walking through knee-deep water and wading out to the muddy bank. The mud is difficult to navigate and can easily trip one carrying a lot of gear. Nearer to the sand bar, the cubs continued to play. For a few minutes, I photographed them and then got out my video camera to record their actions. I filmed their play for about twenty five minutes. Their oblivion to the world was obvious as they were having a blast.

After the twenty five minute film, I again got the camera out to photograph the cubs for a while. I glanced up the beach to see a mom with two cubs strolling towards us. This may be an intense moment, as we don't know if the mom will be comfortable around us. If she is not, it could mean trouble for the rest of us, including the playing bears.

Cubs

The mom started to approach and seemed to have no problem with our presence. She and her two very cute cubs came very close. Very close to mom the cubs cling, standing up on their hind legs to look around every few minutes. Soon the cubs are nursing on mom and they are just 50 feet away or so. This makes all the photographers happy! Audible shutters click away as the cubs continue to cuddle up next to mom.

This show lasted for about an hour before mom decided to move on down the beach with her cubs. With the original two other cubs still directly behind us, and mom up ahead of us with her two cubs, we are not in much of a position to move to the camp site. We patiently waited another 10 minutes before we were able to head towards camp.

As we left towards camp, one cub started to approach us, making everyone in the group a little nervous. Luckily, the cub returned to mom and all was well. One never knows how a mom with cubs is going to react, and a momma bear is not one to be messed with! A cubs’ first year of life can be very dangerous and the mom knows this. Some theorize that some mama bears will get closer to humans with her cubs than to other bears because she feels more secure than around the other bears. The mom may also realize the other bears are afraid of humans and shy away from them. Some how, she may know this and would rather be near the humans with her cubs than be around the other bears.

Back at camp the nightly chores awaited. After preparing water and sorting through the gear for the day, I uploaded my cards that I shot for the day to my Hyper ® drive. So far this is a cool gizmo! Once I return to civilization, I’ll be able to see how it works with the computer. It’s all trial and error with this technological stuff! It is nice to know that out in the field one can have a back-up of everything without a computer. This is helpful for all the digital shooters away from the civilized world for weeks on end.