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Found 10 results

  1. Short report on a grizzly in Yellowstone killed (by park officials) after repeatedly attempting to scavenge food from backcountry campsites. The site (Heart Lake) is a place the missus and I backpacked in 2010. Story is here: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/17050.htm Hard to tell from the description the extent to which "bad" behavior by backcountry users contributed to the bear's behavior. Reading between the lines, however, if a party is following the rules, the window of opportunity for a bear to get "all" of a party's food, as in the event immediately preceding the bear's ultimate capture and subsequent killing, is pretty limited (although certainly possible, if a bear came along at just the right time). I certainly don't fault park officials, however.
  2. Please include species details, when and where taken, tech specs and any other pertinent details about the sighting. Thanks. Matt.
  3. In early July 2017, the missus and I spent four days at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in Alaska. Access to McNeil River is via permit only, with permits issued following an annual lottery held in mid-March. Only 10 guided permits are issued for each four-day permit block. For the past five years, only 3% of applicants for our time block, July 5 through 9, won a permit. As first-time applicants, I guess we got lucky. Over the next few weeks, as I pour through and process way too many images, I'll try to give a summary of the sights for those who may be interested in visiting some day. What we were there to see, of course, was brown bears, like this fellow with a chum salmon: In the next installment, I'll try to provide a little more background and give an overview of the location and the practices in place to enable safe, close-encounter viewing of very large furry critters. -tom a.
  4. Inspired somewhat by @Swazicar's current trip report and some excellent BBC footage I am seriously considering a 7-10 day trip to Alsaka next year. I would like to spend time observing and photgraphing bears but would also like to take to opportunity to observe whales and orcas if possible. There a number of operators availble from an internet search but would be grateful if anyone had any specific recommendations. I have had a look at the trip reports forum and there are a couple of helpful reports there but with the exception of the report from @Spalding there is not too much that is recent.
  5. I was just reading @@Atdahl's trip blog about driving through Yellowstone and wondered who has gone and how it's been arranged? Self-driving? Through a safari company? Hubs has a week off in July and this is doable if we can find accommodation. Help!
  6. My Finland videos.. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL18hI7QD4gtJylkCWn1KX3ymPvx-0ycpe
  7. My wife and I were supposed to go on our 20th wedding anniversary to the Congo to see the lowland gorillas - but the political turmoil of the recent election had the guide we were using stressed enough that we thought visas etc would make the trip to risky for the investment; so we scrambled and managed to get a room at North Face Lodge (http://campdenali.com/) at mile 89 of the Denali NP road from Monday 8/1 through Friday 8/5. I have been to AK 4 times prior fishing at Bristol Bay Sportfishing in Iliamna (www.bristol-bay.com or www.alaska-grizzlies.com). I like to fish is an understatement! My wife had never seen AK before - so I twisted Jerry Jacques' arm into letting us stay at his lodge for a couple of days of (essentially private) bear viewing in Katmai NP/Preserve. We flew into Fairbanks on Saturday 8/30 and stayed for two nights. We stayed at a Best Western Chena RIver Lodge that is pretty close to the airport and backs up to the Chena River. The rivers were at flood stage - so swollen you couldn't fish them - and most road overpasses would need to be portaged as there was not enough clearance to get under the bridges. We rented a car and 'drove the area' as best we could. we had pretty miserable weather for most of our trip.....mid 50's during the day and 30's at night with a fair amount of rain and showers all week. There is an REI in Fairbanks - and we stopped and doubled up on our rain gear! we had dinner the first night at: Chena's Alaskan Grill....right on the chena river. was nice! food is not inexpensive in AK either! it was raining the next day - so we got in the car and drove to http://www.chenahotsprings.com/ Chena Hot Springs. we didn't see much on the drive! Chena Hot Springs is cool to see I guess.....you aren't getting a lot of enthusiasm out of me for this drive. We also drove through North Pole AK.....was miserable weather - and honestly off season and not too much to see on a rainy Sunday.....we had lunch at the Cookie Jar... http://www.foodnetwork.com/restaurants/ak/fairbanks/cookie-jar-restaurant-restaurant.html a DDD location - and well worth the small wait we had to get seated. the weather broke a bit in the afternoon and we stopped at Creamers bird center... http://www.creamersfield.org/ we managed to see some sand hill cranes and other waterfowl. Dinner the second night was at Brewsters: http://brewstersalaska.com/ this was actually a fun place to eat for us. we like to sit at the bar - and the bartender was a Russian immigrant.....he and the others at the bar made for a memorable dinner...was a lot of fun. We dropped our rental car off on Sunday night back at the airport - so we could take the hotel shuttle on Monday morning to the AK RR train station........... ..... Honestly - the AK RR experience was OK....we scratched it off of our life list of things to do......and probably won't go out of our way to do it again. we upgraded to first class on the 4 hour ride to Denali. ....if you want to see the first class experience - do it on the shorter (less expensive) leg of the trip between Fairbanks and Anchorage - and mostly sleep on the 8hr leg from Denali to Anchorage. We got to the parking lot / bus pickup on Monday at noon. The bus left about 1pm to make the 89 mile journey to North Face Lodge (about 7 hours with rest and animal sighting stops). Unfortunately there had been a major land slide (news worthy size in the lower 48) that had taken out a good section of the park road. This meant the drivers had a small window of opportunity to get through road reconstruction spot - and canceled the normal en route picnic that Camp Denali provides......bit of a bummer as it is supposed to be a neat picnic experience. but - it is what it is! if I forget to post some pictures - here's a link to a google photo album of some of the 5100 pictures I took on the trip: https://goo.gl/photos/A63JwBHQwEPkTndw9 https://goo.gl/photos/A5SVrDbpYZe3u4M4A Mammals and birds were sparse in Denali! Every sighting was an event - and everyone had their eyes peeled on the bus trying to find things........we lucked out and saw Denali the first morning of our stay at North Face Lodge (NFL). It is an amazing sight. The staff and amenities at NFL are really top shelf. Access to canoes on wonder lake....really nice hiking poles, gators and mtn bikes.....and the food is awesome....not to mention heat and flush toilets! Camp Denali is a little more rustic with personal cabins and outhouses.....and a more elevated view of Denali.......the hiking is really cool....and NFL/CD offers 3 levels/grades of hikes each day to choose from......it's really a wonderful place. We had nice sightings of caribou, moose, ptarmigan, loons, and misc other animals......the blueberries were EVERYWHERE - and they were delicious.....walking on the tundra is also cool.....tundra walking is encouraged and you are encouraged to walk so as to not make a path/trail (scattered). OK. So we took the bus back to Denali (town) on Friday - and caught the noon AK RR down to Anchorage...coach....and slept a good chunk of the trip..... We stayed in Anchorage at a Ramada......not the greatest - but worked. You can read all my reviews on tripadvisor.com if you are really interested. We walked the streets of Anchorage for a day....it's cool to see - but nothing amazing (if you ask me) (maybe I have been to Anchorage too many times now and I am starting to get a little biased. We walked the sunday market.....looked in some of the art galleries and had some brew pub food.....yadda - yadda......can't wait to get on Iliamna Air and get to the next stop!!! The bears were clearly the highlight of the trip...by this point my wife had unfortunately come down with bronchitis and was not feeling well. Fortunately she pushed through! Bristol Bay Sportfishing is a great place to do a lot of varied things off of the grid. Fly in - fly out everything (weather permitting)...if socked in - there are just enough roads to explore and fish locally if need be. Fortunately we managed to get to the bears for two days. For all you nature photographers - Art Wolfe spends 2 or 3 weeks every year at the end of July photographing the bears and walrus. That's right. Walrus! The walrus are a pretty decent flight away (90 miniutes to two hours) from the camp - and I think only the super cub (wheels) can make the trip to land on the beach...that means only you and the pilot in the plane. Jerry may have another plane with more passengers and wheels - I am not sure. speak with Jerry if you want to try and see walrus. Not too much to say about the bear experience except it was the highlight of the trip. the places we went we were basically all by ourselves....we were even dropped off with camping gear in case the weather socked in and he couldn't get the plane back in to pick us up. not that far fetched on the first day as it was raining and cold.....just as we got the tent up to get out of the weather some, we heard the beaver coming in to get us..... One last note: Mooses Tooth Pub and Pizza is well worth it in Anchorage....we stopped coming and going http://moosestooth.net/ was really good!!!
  8. The first time we ever went to Africa, I packed a number of t-shirts; many of them featured animals, one with a zebra, another had a picture of elephants with the logo “ivory looks best – on elephants”, and one had a wonderful picture of a bear standing up on its back legs. On one of the road trips between parks we pulled into a rest stop, and proceeded to create absolute chaos. “What is that creature on your t-shirt?” “Does it really exist?” “Where does it live?” “Why don’t we have them in Africa?” “Are you sure they are real?” “What does it eat?” “Have you seen a live one?” “Can I buy your t-shirt?” I stood surrounded by the local wood carvers who couldn’t believe that there was a huge predator that they did not have in Africa. At the time I declined to sell my t-shirt but I often wonder if I had handed it over, whether, among the carvings of elephants, impalas and giraffes, there would be woodcarvings of bears available for sale along the road from Nairobi. Now more years later that I care to think about we are finally heading off to somewhere where we hope to see bears in the wild. We are heading off to Finland. So on 20 April at 10.20am we board a plane flying from Heathrow to Helsinki hoping we have packed enough warm weather gear. The flight is around three hours long and at Helsinki we make a swift transfer (there is only 45 minutes and we are coached to and from both planes) onto a turbo-prop plane to Kajaani. The flight to Kajaani is just over an hour long, and it barely seems like we have taken off before we are arriving. Kajaani is a tiny little airport, which gets two flights a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We arrived at around 17.30. A taxi was waiting to take us to Wild Brown Bear – a car journey of around an hour and a quarter, further North and East and right next to the Russian border. The main roads were clear of snow but all around us was deep snow, frozen lakes and trees – bare leafed silver birches and green covered firs – dusted with snow. It looked so beautiful – we felt like we had stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia and were looking for the White Queen to come through on her sleigh. As we drove along a light dusting of snowflakes fell. After about an hour we turned off the main road East onto an untarmacked road for about ten minutes before arriving at Wild Brown Bear. There is a big main building which has the dining room, toilets and a big auditorium and a separate building which has accommodation. We were in room 4, which has three single beds and an en-suite bathroom (not all of the rooms have en-suite bathrooms). The rooms are basic, but clean and warm. Although you spend all night in the hides, you need a room for the days, so you can snooze to catch up on sleep, to shower (and for me to get my hair dry), and generally to rebuild your energy. (From talking to some of the other guests who had been there previously this is even more important in the summer, when the daylight is long and you sit up virtually all night – and sleep all day.) Due to our late arrival we would be unable to spend this first night in a hide, but some dinner had been held for us, so we had dinner and an early night; the last one in our cosy bedroom for a while. The following day we had a good walk, stretching our legs and getting our bearings. We found the bird hide but there were people in there so we walked back to the main road looking at the wonderful scenery. At about 15:50 we headed over for dinner, layered up and with all of our gear. Nearly everyone else was already there and most of the way through dinner (so much for 16.00 dinner), so we ate rapidly – soup, main and pudding before picking up our snack pack and heading off on the trek down to our first hide. The First Night in the Hide. The hides – well they are kind of like modified garden sheds. They are around six to six and a half feet long, and have some insulation on the inside. All of them have ventilation pipes/ holes. There are generally two narrow-ish bunks along the back wall, with comfortable foam mattresses. There was either one very heavy weigh sleeping bag or two light weight ones, and usually a blanket as well. Across the front there was a narrow glass panel which you could peer through to see outside, and below that were the canvas apertures for cameras. This was a square of canvas with a kind of open ended sock to point the lens out of which could then be tightened around the lens (helping to keep some of the cold out). The unused ones were rolled up to keep the wind out. The sock effect meant that you could move the lens almost 180 degrees. The wooden bench below the canvas had bolts to attach tripod heads to. Above the narrow window was a shelf (about eight inches) upon which you could put all sorts of stuff – drinks, food, extra bits of clothing. Two chairs were then in the gap between the bunks and the window. Just by the door was a bucket loo (this is basically a tall-ish bucket with a loo seat) – you are not allowed out of the hide overnight, there is no privacy, so if you are sharing a hide make sure you know the other person reasonably well. Down at your feet there is a small paraffin heater (J says it was a solid paraffin heater) which you can light – although I suspect it would have created moisture issues. Even using the hot water to make tea/coffee tended to steam the window up. So here we are – our first night in the bear hides – will they come at all. Having spoken to one of the other guests, he has been here four nights already and not seen a single bear. It is early in the season (J wanted bears in snow), and they have not been arriving in the light. Shoes are off (we were already wearing two pairs of socks and took a really heavy think pair of long thermal socks which effectively became slippers and this worked well) we sat in all our heavy gear, and the sleeping bags peering out the narrow window and waited….. and waited….. and waited. The hooded crows came……. the ravens came…… and we waited. And then as the light was fading at 20.30ish the bear came. This is a big old bear – he has taken a hell of a strike to his nose but it is clearly healed (despite looking ugly), and he is using it to sniff so he obviously has full use of it. He comes onto the lake from the Russian side and strolls around, sniffing out the snacks left for him. He wanders along the edge of the lake, mooching in and out of the trees, shooing the hooded crows out of his way before heading towards a small copse which is just off to the side of our hide. He is probably around twenty meters away and now you really realise how big this old male is. After a while he moves off back round the lake before heading off towards the North. It is really dark by now and you can barely see any way at all. We strip off our coats but leave on everything else and clamber onto the bunks. With all of our clothing including thermal hats and fingerless gloves, the sleeping bags, blankets and our coats draped over we are warm enough and pretty much sleep through until 4.40am when it is light enough to go back to watching out the hide. However other than the scenery, which is beautiful in the morning light, nothing further is seen. At 8.00am we gather all the gear back together and head back to the main building for breakfast – buffet style which includes juice, cereal, sausage, eggs, beans, toast as well as tea and coffee. Durng breakfast we had a chat with some of the other guest (the Scottish guy who we spoke to earlier had now spent five nights in hides, but had been in a different area and had still not seen any bears and was heading home today ). After breakfast we headed to our room to doze (particularly J) before having showers. Once my hair was dry (you really, really don’t want to go out here with wet hair) we went down to the bird watching hide. The Scottish guy had advised that the red squirrels were frequent visitors, so we watched and waited. The bird hide is much more open than the bear hides, although it has same kind of apertures for cameras. There are some lovely logs and settings for creatures to sit in – should they deign to come. After a while some blue tits and great tits turned up, then some chaffinch (and sitting right at the back and totally refusing to come forward was a bullfinch – this was the only time we saw it despite keeping our eyes peeled. Then a lovely great spotted woodpecker turned up, bobbing in among the small birds. We saw a couple of squirrels bouncing through the wood in the distance. And then…… a lovely little red squirrel arrived. During the winter red squirrels often have a grey coat (J says they are like the Guards at Buckingham Palace with their grey winter coat and red coats in the summer). With it coming towards the end of their winter the red coat was starting to come through this individual’s winter coat – giving him lovely and rather interesting marbled pattern. Although the squirrel was clearly aware of the cameras he was totally unconcerned. When the squirrel ran off into the woods, and we were thoroughly frozen we headed back to our nice toasty room to warm up before getting ready for our next evening in the hides. The Second Night in the Hide As we headed over to dinner tonight it was snowing, then it started snowing harder. This evening we had quite a heavy snowfall. We walked down to the hides through fresh crispy show. The boardwalks which are narrow in any case were caked with snow and ice, and were more than a bit slippy. (One of the other guests was an older French guy, who had been several times before. He was less stable on his feet but had bought hiking poles which assisted in keeping his balance on the narrow boardwalks). But it was oh so beautiful. We tucked ourselves into our hide for the night and started the waiting game…. And we waited and waited and waited, watching the snow falling – but tonight there were no bears – at least not until long after it had gone dark. The following morning we could see a lovely sunrise, and bear prints around the hide. Ah well that’s wildlife. Walking back to the main buildings for breakfast we saw a rather nice black woodpecker. The day followed pretty much the same as yesterday – breakfast, snoozing, shower – a bit of reading, then down to the bird hide. This time we had barely arrived when first birds appeared including a woodpecker and then a different squirrel decided to come and pose in the afternoon light. What a lovely dilemma for photographers – woodpecker or red squirrel? Our Third Night in the Hide So after dinner we once again headed down for our third night in the hide. Today we were back around the lake where most of the bear activity seemed to be at this time of year. So we settle in to our standard waiting….. and waiting …. and here, whilst the light is still good (it’s only 18.15) is our big, battered old friend. Once again he comes from the Russian side of the lake, making his way around the edge, weaving among the trees before heading for the copse a short distance away from our hide. Today he comes even closer to the hide, filling the lens with his head and shoulders. It’s clear he can hear cameras but it is also clear that he is used to these sounds and although he looks up to check on us occasionally he is unbothered by the clicking. Something however does disturb him and he lurches into a gallop for about twenty meters, before calming down and strolling along the lake off into the forest. We see him a couple more times tonight at a distance. At one point there is a red fox up on the bank, and we watch as he clambers swiftly up the bank chasing the fox into the woods. We finally stop watching for him as the light fades away entirely. Tonight is bitterly, bitterly cold so we snuggle as deeply as possible in our covers, with only noses showing to get some sleep. There is another wonderful sunrise this morning – with the hot sunlight pouring through the trees onto the icy ground. The walk back this morning is particularly beautiful, the cold night means that the snow is extra crispy and there is a bright blue sky to contrast with the snow. Once again at 8.00 we head back for some breakfast, warming up and snoozing. This is our last full day at Wild Brown Bear, so this afternoon we head back to the bird hide. The two Dutch guys that we have been talking to, join us in the hide and we sit watching the tits and finches hopping around in the snow. After a short while the male great spotted woodpecker turns up. He clambers around in the trees, and then pops down to the ground looking lovely in the snow. Then to our delight the female turns up and for a while we have both the male and female, in the warm afternoon sun. After about an hour, a red squirrel turns up. This is another different squirrel, this one looks smaller and is a lovely silver colour with almost no red coming through. It is very willing to pose – sitting in all the right spots, clinging from the tree and peering from the branches beautifully. We did not expect the squirrels at all – but they have been a joy. Our Last Night in the Hide So our last night in the hide – this hide is a little less windproof but it is warmer tonight so it is not really a problem. We start settling into our hide – moving slowly and quietly. Sorting out the sleeping bags and getting everything organised takes quite a while. In this case we both have two lightweight sleeping bags which takes longer to sort out, as you have to get into one and then pull the other one over that one. So finally we sit down – all sorted and arranged and look out the window and J says “bear”. Its 17:15, the light is wonderful and here is our big, battered, old friend. This time he is not coming from Russia but from the other side of the lake, and he is marching straight across to where we are sitting. We watch as he wanders round to the Russian side of the lake, going behind the trees. Anyway as he goes out of sight we relax waiting to see if he will come back and he does, moving around the lake before heading off into the forest. While we are waitng we notice of the hooded crows has found something interesting. A close look shows it a kind of pine cone, which it takes out into the middle of the frozen lake where it proceeds to jump, and pounce on it, more like a cat than a bird. We’ve no idea what it was doing but it was interesting to watch. We watch as the light fades and then suddenly we can see another bear shape in among the trees. This is a much smaller bear; it’s younger and a lot more nervous. I’m not sure if it was nervous of us or of the older and much bigger bear. It is absolutely beautiful, especially when it stands in the last bit of the evening light. It stays back among the trees – darting out to see if there is anything to eat, often standing like a pointer dog with its foreleg held in the air. Finally it got dark and we bedded down for the night. The morning bought no animals but another amazing sunrise. The hot sunlight reflected off of the ice of the lake, creating an almost molten look. It was definitely warmer tonight and on the walk back from the hides the snow was beginning to melt, and more greenery was appearing from beneath the snow. Back at our room, and after breakfast, we stripped of the thermals, woolly hats, gloves, scarfs and all the rest of the apparel. We packed the bags and got ready for our return trip to Kajaani airport. Driving along the road west we suddenly had to slow to almost a stop as a large reindeer type creature crossed the road just ahead of the car. It trotted off to join its herd which were gathered at the side of a frozen lake. These were forest deer – apparently they are rare and difficult to see. It was a nice treat to see them before our return to the UK. Check in and security at Kajaani were quick and efficient, and we caught the early afternoon flight to Helsinki, before another fairly swift transfer onto the flight back to Heathrow. It was a fun trip – bitterly cold most of the time, but oh so very beautiful. It was lovely to see the bears in the snow. I would like to go back and see them (possibly in the Autumn when the leafs are all turning), although I am not sure I fancy it quite so cold again. I really did love seeing the bears though – so maybe I could even be persuaded to go in April again. Who knows!
  9. http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/conservation+officer+suspended+refusing+kill+bear+cubs/11195873/story.html This article in the Vancouver Sun presents the views of British Columbia's most experienced black bear rehabilitation specialist concerning the possible killing of two 8-week old bear cubs on the grounds that they'd become habituated to human food. Angelika Langen of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society questioned the scientific necessity for the proposal. Research by bear biologist John Beecham found no evidence that such baby bears were more prone to future conflict behavior.
  10. In case you're interested in seeing bears fishing for salmon in Alaska but can't make it there this summer, there are some live cams run by Explore.org that are now live for the summer. 2 out of the 3 are live and the one at the Falls should be live within about a week I believe. Links here for the two that are live now: http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-lower-river http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-the-riffles and this is the one at the Falls, not live yet but should be in about a week http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls There are reports of a couple of courting couples being seen and there is at least one mama bear with 3 yearlings that all survived from last year. More bears should be showing up in the next week or two.

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