Grizzly Bears – Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
The least visited of all National Parks in the US national park system is Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It’s no wonder. One can reach the park only by plane or boat. No cars can get there. It is located on the shores of Cook Inlet about, a one-hour flight southwest from Anchorage. The landing strip is the beach! It’s not as easy to land as you might think: the pilot must first scan the beach for grizzly bears.
This park is home to dozens of grizzly bears (aka brown bears, aka coastal bears). Technically, a brown bear is not called a grizzly bear until it is 100 miles inland from the coast. On the coast they are called brown bears. However, I will be calling them grizzly bears because I love the sound and emotion that is evoked.
The sows (adult female bears) and their cubs inhabit the beach during the month of July, digging for clams at low tide. The salmon are also running at this time. As the salmon run peaks in early August, the boars (adult male bears) move in causing the sows with her cubs to move out. Boars will kill cubs to force a sow into estrous. A very grizzly way of life!
I had the good fortune to spend a week photographing sows with cubs, including 2 spring cubs (born in the spring) during the third week of July 2015. We stayed at the Alaskan Homestead Lodge, which I highly recommend. The trip/tour/workshop was organized by my good friend Matt Shetzer.
My heart skipped a beat or two when this sow charged right in my direction. She was just chasing a salmon, but I did not know it at the time. She stopped about 25 feet in front of me, close enough to make me step back a few steps.
This spring (born in the spring of the current year) cub swam out half-way across the stream, panicked, then turned around and paddled back to mom, where it received solace and comfort at a time of stress.
It’s a good thing these bears can read (note the sign on the left):
To view the gallery of grizzly bear images, including the spring cubs click:
Bears occasionally stand up to view their surroundings and catch the scent of any threats. View this video of one sow standing:
Bear Hugs – watch how two bear cubs stay warm together.
And bears can Stroll in Style
Hope that you enjoy