Encountering BIG Brown Bears and other Alaskan Wildlife…

I met my first Brown Bear in Katmai National Park, which is at the beginning of the Aleutian Peninsula. He was coming along a trail I was walking down. He and I had a discussion and then I slowly backed away. Never run from a bear.

I met my first Brown Bear in Katmai National Park, which is at the beginning of the Aleutian Peninsula. He was coming down a trail I was walking up. He and I had a discussion and then I slowly backed away. Never run from a bear unless you are hiking with someone slower than you are. (grin)

Peggy and I are off in Alaska as you read this blog. Since I won’t have time for blogging or reading blogs, I decided to repost a few blogs from the trip we made to Alaska three years ago. If you have been following me for a while, you will have read these blogs previously. I will try to respond to comments. –Curt

Back in the 1980s, I spent three years living in Alaska and dedicated as much time as I could to wandering in the woods. Along the way I met most of the wildlife Alaska is famous for. A grizzly bear stalked me on the Kenai Peninsula. I went to sleep listening to wolves howl on a winter cross-country ski trip in Denali National Park. Even more entertaining, a pair of Dahl Sheep had a head-butting contest in my campsite in Chugach State Park.

You don’t have to disappear into the vast wilderness of Alaska to encounter animals with big teeth, claws and antlers, however. Our friends Edith Barrowclough and David  McElroy reported that both a black bear and a moose wandered through their yard in Anchorage over the weekend. They have also seen a wolf and a lynx in the area.

Our friends David and Edie. Edie went to high school with Peggy in Port Clinton Ohio. She now works as a CPA in Anchorage. Her husband, David, is a bush pilot working on the North Slope and a published poet.

Our friends David and Edie. Edie went to high school with Peggy in Port Clinton, Ohio. She now works as a CPA in Anchorage. Her husband, David, is a pilot working on the North Slope and a published poet. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I stayed with them for four days. Every time Chula the Dog barked Peggy darted outside in hopes of spotting something large and furry. All she saw was the neighbor’s dog but we did end up seeing our share of wild animals. David and Edie insisted on taking us to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center at the southern end of Turnagain Sound. The Center serves as a wildlife sanctuary and is designed to duplicate the animals’ natural surroundings. They have done a good job. The photos in this blog were taken there.

Our trip down Turnagain Arm to the sanctuary was a trip down memory lane for me. It was one of my favorite drives when I lived in Alaska.

Turnagain Arm and the Alaska Railway.

A shot of the railroad tracks running along Turnagain Sound. The V in the mountains on the right is where the town of Hope is located. Hope was the starting point for 100 mile backpack trips I led across the Kenai Peninsula.

Salmon fishing on the Bird River in Alaska.

We stopped off at Bird River on our way down Turnagain Arm. The dots on the river are people fishing for salmon. Three days later we would be fishing for salmon on Kodiak Island.

Black bear with cave in Alaska

Black bears are smaller than their cousins. I once woke up with one standing on my chest in Yosemite. I screamed loudly. You may have heard me. This guy was about to join his companion in the cave.

Black bear entering cave in Alaska.

Here he goes.

Alaskan Brown Bear

Our first view of the Brown Bears was of one playing in the water throwing a moose bone into the air. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Alaska Brown Bear playing with moose bone.

Here he catches the bone with one paw while pointing out his skill with the other. He didn’t have to persuade us.

Alaska Brown Bear growling.

My, what big teeth you have. And no, we have no intention of taking away your bone. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

One wet Alaskan Brown Bear, up close.

One wet Alaskan Brown Bear, up close.

Alaska Brown Bear displaying his claws.

Check out the claws on this guy.

Head shot of Alaska Brown Bear.

My grandson Connor insisted I include this head shot I took of one of the Brown Bears. The bear was sitting up.

I though I would conclude with this photo because it emphasizes just how big Alaskan Brown Bears become on their diet of salmon.

I thought I would conclude with this photo because it emphasizes just how big Alaskan Brown Bears become on their diet of salmon. A large male can weigh up to 1200 pounds.

 

34 comments on “Encountering BIG Brown Bears and other Alaskan Wildlife…

  1. Wooohoooo! Great Shots! Fabulous experience. (Met a few bears myself during my time in the north – none up too too close though, except for an encounter on the way to the outhouse lol)

  2. Curt, you da man when it comes to photographing bears. The “bone tosser” is brilliant. What a great series. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the bush as well, and am happy to report that thus far, I haven’t had a bear encounter. None of this breaks my heart however. I’ll just leave this part of the outdoor experience to brave sorts like you. ~James

    • Happened again today, James. Peggy and I were fishing for pink salmon with our son and his family on Kodiak Island and I had to find a tree. Instead I found a large Kodiak Bear fishing the same stream maybe 100-150 yards away. I quietly backed off and left him to his business. (grin) –Curt

  3. Oh wow – as much as we love animals this is one we’d really rather not try to squish in a travel compartment 😉 Incredible and magnificent in the wild. What great shots you have taken.

  4. The thought of bears playing is just delightful. Cubs, of course. But a nice, big one like that? What a great set of captures. I’ve never seen a bear in the wild. Coyotes, bobcat, assorted deer and antelope, sure. Moose and elk, too. But no bears. If I ever did, I’d prefer to be with someone who has experience wtih them. I can’t imagine turning around to see one. Oh, my.

    • I once had a friend who taught wilderness survival tell his students if bears liked to eat people, they would move into towns where there were lots of people to eat. 🙂

  5. After two months in Alaska, the only bear we saw was a grizzly from about a mile away, in the bottom of a valley, in Denali. We didn’t feel ripped off, but when hike after hike had people saying “watch out for the bear up the trail” but no bear sighting, we were a little disappointed. I guess next time, kodiak will be on the list.

    • Thanks for following! I lived in Alaska for three years and was once stalked by a grizzly down on the Kenai Peninsula. 🙂 That was fun. You might want to add Katmai to your itinerary. The huge Brown Bears wander through your campsite. –Curt

      • Alisonanddon suggested I head your way after reading my blog. They told me you knew more about US National Parks than anyone they knew. I guess you may have an idea about how to get my idea further out there? Wes.

  6. I’m loving this series of post on Alaska. We’ll be visiting our daughter in the Yukon at the end of May and tho I hope to see lots of wildlife, an encounter with a bear in not on the wish list. – Ginette

    • Glad you are enjoying the series, Ginette. Bears are a delight from a distance. Care is required when they are closer, however. Once I was stalked by a large grizzly, not a pleasant experience. –Curt

  7. Turnagain Arm and Chugach State Park bring back memories for me too. Some places are so compelling, they stick with you. I had no bear incidents, but these are Places, with a capital P, and they stick with me many years later.

    Oh yeah, combat fishing we called it, when they’d line up in the Kenai River when I lived there. It was a surprise to me, coming from Idaho, that people would bother to fish right next to 27 other people fishing.

    • I never could get lining up shoulder to shoulder and fishing! The reason I always fished, when I used to, was to get away into the wilderness. When I used to see the mobs at Kenai, all I could think of was tangle lines. Not for me… 🙂 –Curt

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