A trip to Alaska, in our minds, was not complete without seeing some bears. Janet and I were delighted to see black, brown and grizzley bears during our recent trip. The black bear seemed to be the most common and widely distributed in the regions we visited. We were suprised to learn that black bears are also the most difficult: their curiosity, proximity to human populations, and fearlessness make them more of a problem than the others. Our closest encounter with a black bear was at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Camp – about 6 of us were in a canoe paddling around a lake outside the cabin-site, when a black bear was spotted grazing on the lakeshore. Our guide told us that the bears did not react to an approach from the water, so we got remarkably close to this magnificent creature. The first photo shows the bear with rain-drops collecting on his fur – it was raining steadily as we paddled!
Our most delightful bear-viewing took a lot more effort. Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears (the same species as grizzley bears, but separated by habitat, food preference, etc.) were feeding on salmon at the time we visited Alaska. To view them, we arranged with Alaska Bear Adventures for a flight with K. Bay Air out of Homer. You can visit their web site to learn more (Alaskabearviewing.com). We were instructed NOT to bring tuna sandwiches, and NOT to wear clothes that we might have worn fishing the day before! We learned that the bears were very intent on catching salmon, and that if we stayed together and did not present either a threat or an opportunity to the bears, we were not in harm’s way. Nevertheless, the guides had protection (flares, in our case – some guides carried guns!). Five passengers and the pilot got into a tiny Cessna, and off we went. The plane flew about an hour to Clark Lake Preserve, and we landed on the beach near a river outflow characterized by a broad expanse of gravel and small rivultes running through it. We walked about a half-mile, all the time staying within arm’s reach of our guide. The photograph at the right shows a brown bear up close – he or she had been munching on salmon, and looked up from a sandy ridge – about 30 feet way from our group! We enjoyed our bear viewing very much, and can’t wait to do it again!