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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yellowstone & Grand Tetons: No Lions and Tigers but TONS of Bears

I think by far the biggest coo in the wildlife area for most people visting the parks would be spotting bear. I would say that nine times out of ten if you see a huge traffic build-up then there was a bear somewhere in the area.

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I would stop, park the car and hop out to join the crowd with my camera in tow. If I couldn’t see the animal I would swing next to a fellow photographer or someone with a big scope. Almost everyone was super excited to point out the sighting and share in the joy of seeing a real live bear out there.

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In the beginning I stopped at every traffic jam like most do their first couple of days. Then I learned two important things. The first is that even in the middle of June the mountains still had an unprecedented amount of snow. That snow, which was as high as my car, forced more bear from the highlands, where they normally hung out, down into the lowlands. Rangers were stating that they had never seen so many bears and I agree there were a ton of sightings. Almost every single day I was having 8-15 bear sightings.

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GRIZZLY

However soon I was slowing down only to see how far the bear was. If it was close, or if there was something interesting going on like a mother and cubs, I would stop but bears far off running away in the distance were not interesting to me... I wanted good photos. And man did my dreams come true.

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BLACK BEAR

I was able to get to see and get fantastic photos of both black bear and grizzly’s although it took me a while to be able to tell the difference between the two. If grizzly’s would have just stayed brown and black bears black then I wouldn’t have a problem but both bear come in a range of colors.

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GRIZZLY

Black bear weigh 200-400 pounds and are 5 feet tall when standing. A good way to identify the black bear is by its lack of shoulder hump and the straight profile line of their forehead to snout.

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BLACK BEAR

Grizzly’s weigh 500-800 pounds and are 6.5 feet tall when standing. A good way to identify the grizzly is by it’s shoulder hump and the snout which has a clear depression between the eyes.

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GRIZZLY

Most of my sightings were near my car on the road with a crowd of other people and the bear was a good distance off which is just how I liked it. Close enough to get a decent photo but far enough away that I wasn’t uncomfortable.

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BLACK BEAR

Some sightings were hysterical, like this brown bear yearling that was chased up a tree. A much larger older bear who chased him up there camped out below so the little black bear simply took a nap up in that tree. I hung out with a crowd for a good hour eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich laughing at the antics of the bears.

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BLACK BEAR YEARLING IN A TREE

I was lucky in one instance to see two black bear close to the road. They happened to be on the other side of a large river so it was safe to get some nice close ups. With the thick vegetation I ended up laying down a few times to get around branches and sticks. This was my favourite shot. The black bear was staring aggressively at the other bear not more than 50 feet away. It gave me chills.

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BLACK BEAR UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

I was surprised at how many cinnamon black bears there were in this area, the ranger said that cinnamon black bears are more common in the west. Most of the black bears I got to see and get good photos of were cinnamon.

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A CINNAMON BLACK BEAR

I carried the bear mace my husband got me every time I was away from the car and out of the entire two weeks I was only really scared once. I was about 15 feet away from my car, I had stopped and hopped out quickly because I had spotted two golden eagles in flight. I was so focused on the sky for the next twenty minutes getting photos of the birds that I didn’t notice a huge grizzly coming around the bend in a hill nearby. When I heard a noise and looked up I immediately started slowly backing away to the car. I was safe, I drove a good 300 feet away and then got out and snapped some photos. BIG SIGH.

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A CLOSE CALL WITH A GRIZZLY

If you want to get photos of the large predators its better if you get up early. One morning I was on a knoll with a few other photographers near Lamar meadow. It was known to be a good area where predators may pass. We were lucky one day to see a grizzly in the distance. And then we got even luckier when a large group of people scared him right to us.

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GRIZZLY

He stood on his hind legs (which is not a sign of aggression I learned but of curiosity) looking at the group of noisy people and then he took off right toward the photographers on the hill. We were quiet, we didn’t scare him, we simply put our fingers to the shutters and kept clicking. It was a fantastic series of photos. He came right in front of us before taking off in the distance. After hour of standing and waiting we had our photos... it was an exhilarating moment and probably my favourite shot of a grizzly I got.

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GRIZZLY LOOK AT THOSE CLAWS

The bears in general were mostly unafraid, I am sure they were used to the large groups of people staring and talking about them and generally they ignored us. Rangers were EVERYWHERE making sure that people were following the rules and giving the wildlife safe. I was surprised however when returning for lunch to my hotel I caught one cinnamon black bear darting right through the parking lot.

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A BRAVE BLACK BEAR CUTTING RIGHT THROUGH MAMMOTH VILLAGE

The only occasion I did not get a good photo of bear is the cubs. Those mama bears were sensitive I am sure about bringing babies too close to crowds of people.

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BABY GRIZZLY TRING TO FOLLOW ITS MAMA OVER AN OBSTACLE COURSE OF LOGS

I did get some adorable shots in the distance and you know what I am OK with distant shots. They say that you could never do anything more stupid than get between a bear and its cubs. I was happy to admire from a distance.

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MAMA GRIZZLY AND HER TWO ONE YEAR CUBS - APPARENTLY SHE WAS BIG NEWS LAST YEAR BECAUSE SHE GAVE BIRTH TO FOUR CUBS AN UNHEARD OF AMOUNT - SADLY TWO OF THEM DID NOT MAKE IT THROUGH THE WINTER

3 comments:

Cheryl said...

amazing, looks like the bears are right next to you, or ready jump at you anytime, but i'm trusting your lens.

paul peggy zeus said...

NICE pictures of the bears. I didn't know there were cinnamon black bears. See what can learn from one another?? Love it when bears stand up on two feet too!

lilmansworld said...

This is way better than the movie 'The Bear', which I watched incessantly as a kid. I think if you sprayed bleach out of a sprayer the bear would run away, but its good to be prepared you lil girl scout you!

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