Glacier Grizzlies

In preparation for my trip to Katmai National Park this week.  Here is a small gallery of photos taken on a single day from last years trip to Glacier National Park (Sept 2012).  These were taken in the Many Glacier section of the park. It was crawling with bears, both grizzlies and black bears.  I was shooting with Jeff Callihan.  We made sure to stay upwind from where we assumed the bears were located, thereby alerting them of our presence by scent. We saw several grizzlies, including a mother and her cub.

One of the grizzlies got a bit too close for comfort, as seen in this gallery. We handled this bear calmly, carefully and respectfully. The bear had been popping in and out of the thicket for several hours, never coming within 200m of our position. We remained stationary the entire time.  After sometime, the bear began to appear closer to our position. When she emerged from the thicket about 40m away, we stood up and slowly moved, side by side, away from the thicket and into the meadow to give her right of way should she desire it.  Looking at us, she kept coming towards us.  When she charged in our direction, we spoke firmly to her, reassuring her of our implicit human-ness.  The charge was likely a curious, exploratory one. But one can never be complacent with a charging grizzly, and the simple act of showing our backs could have triggered the predator/prey instincts of this apex predator. 

At the nearest, she was within 20-30 feet of us.  Once the situation was defused (without needing to spray the bear), Jeff and I quickly left the area and returned to his truck with a freshly invigorated respect for these powerful animals. 

The Grizzly bear is a subspecies of the Brown Bear. To be clear, a grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) is an interior North American Brown Bear and was so named by the “grizzled” (read: silver tipped) appearance of its coat, which can be observed in these photos.  This subspecies is different from its larger and less “grizzled” cousins found in the coastal regions of Alaska, including Kodiak Island and Katmai NP, and other brown bear subspecies (Russia, Europe).  Despite this, and this is where the confusion stems, the eponymous term Grizzly Bear has been applied to both the inland and coastal varieties of the brown bear. This is because the name “Grizzly Bear” is so awesome that the people near other brown bears got jealous and wanted a name more inventive than “brown bear”.  While it is true that a proper inland grizzly bear is pretty awesome, other brown bears are awesome too, so they shouldn’t feel jealous of their smaller, meaner kin.  The interior grizzly bears can be found in places like: Yellowstone NP in Wyoming, Glacier NP in Montana, Idaho, Washington, the parks of the Canadian Rockies, and inland Alaska (such as Denali NP).  There is also an indie band named “Grizzly Bear”, but don’t let their lame and wanna-be obscure musical styling confuse you with the ferocious nature of this animal. Unless they took inspiration from a grizzly bear’s hibernation period, it would have been more appropriate for them to call themselves “Prairie Dog”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.