Sunday, December 13, 2015

Grizzly Mom and Second-year Cubs

 Alaska 2014 continued:

While all the up close looks of caribou, moose and Dall sheep were really nice, what we all wanted to see were bears and wolves. Wolves, it turns out, are in short supply in the Denali area these days as hunting and trapping in recent years has greatly reduced their numbers, and we did not see any. But on the return trip from the Eielson Visitor Center, we hit the jackpot with bears. First we spotted a lone grizzly a couple hundred feet from the road. We stopped to watch for a few minutes, then moved on the let another busload have a look.

Farther along the road someone spotted a large sow sitting on the side of a hill, watching our approach. We stopped to have a look. She did not seem too thrilled with our gawking. (Once again I had to shoot through the windows of the bus so the image quality is compromised.)

Grizzly sow eyeing our bus in Denali National Park.

She looked around and sniffed the air.

Soon we saw why--two second-year cubs came trundling up the hill towards her! She got up and walked off to our right, and the cubs followed.

A second-year cubs moves across the hillside, following mom.

The wind had really kicked up and it blew through their thick coats.

Mom paused at this creek while the kids caught up.

The soft afternoon light was gorgeous on the bears and the hillside.

The family continued to move to our right, until they were within 75-100 feet of the bus.

The littler of the two huffed it up the hill.

This is one of only a couple shots where I was able to get both cubs in the frame.

Even in June there were still patches of rotted snow in the hollows. As the bears pushed past us we moved along too. It was one of the most special moments of the trip for me. Watching these animals in their natural habitat was amazing. But before we came across this trio, we'd had another close encounter with a grizzly family, which will wrap up the Alaska blog series--but that's for next time!

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