One of the main reasons I come to the Tetons now is to watch and photograph the moose. This time of year they are in wonderful coat, all shiny and sleek and the bulls are on the lookout for cows. The day after I got settled in at the campground I drove along the river to see what I could find. Lo and behold, there was a bull hanging around a cow with twin calves of this year. I think it was wishful thinking on his part but great to see them all. They graze on the willow shrubs that grow along the river stripping the leaves off the thin branches. Haven’t seen the cow with twins since but it’s good to know she’s out there.
One day I took a drive along a narrow winding road that goes from Moose (yes, it even has a post office!) to Wilson. This handsome elk bull was just coming out of the trees into a large field. When he spotted the stopped cars he kept moving away from us at a dignified pace so I was able to get an image. Butt shots aren’t my favorites but in this case it was this or nothing.
Recently the moose have been coming into the campground early in the morning. I managed to get over to where there was a bull (he’s named Custer) and a cow. This is the same bull I saw at the river earlier. They were both laid down when I got there, he stayed down for 2 hours, got up and moved 10′ and laid down again. They were not particularly close to each other but when the cow got up (after a 4 hour rest) he did too. His efforts to get close to her were wasted so he headed the other way to do “bull moose things” like rubbing his antlers on shrubs or tree trunks, making a wallow. As he did this he swung right coming very close to where I was and thwarting the majority of photographers who anticipated a different direction for him. This gave me some great images as I hid behind 2 trees. I did move back after getting about all I could safely. My 4 hour wait was well rewarded I think.
This morning I was up and out but just missed the real action. Wysockie, a mature bull who seems to be dominant here had arrived. I’ve heard he knocked Custer to the ground. Custer headed away and I followed, thinking Wysockie and the cows would head the same way. Unfortunately my guess was wrong but I was able to get a nice image of Wysockie before he headed to the river with 2 cows.
This afternoon I took another drive just a short way out on the Moose-Wilsoon Rd. On the way back I was stopped by rangers who were holding up traffic…… I got to see 3 bear cubs cross the road and got a few photos through the windshield. Not the best but better than nothing. The sow had already crossed. From the coloring and head shape I think these are grizzly cubs.
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My last 5 nights in Denali NP were spent at Teklanika cg, 29 miles into the park. Once at the campground you are not permitted to drive around until you leave. In order to travel I purchased a pass, called a TEK pass, that enabled me to hop on any shuttle and go as far as the Eielson Visitor Center which is a 6 hour round trip. That was as long as I wanted to be away from the dogs and provided many photography opportunities. The bus drivers would stop for wildlife viewing whenever possible so it worked out very nicely.
I got to see many grizzly bears, some were simply too far away that while I took photos I won’t upload them. Others are closer to the road and were great subjects.
I saw this bear 3 of the 4 trips out, and sometimes 2 times a day, on the way out and on the way back.
I did include a couple of images of a sow and her 2 cubs laying out in the grass enjoying a sun bath simply because they looked so utterly relaxed.
For the most part I saw sows with 2 cubs, some were born this past winter, others appeared to be 2 or 3 years old. This was the only single bear I got some good images of and it was fun to watch.
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It’s been quiet around home as I’m getting things done and looking forward to the next outing. Making plans, checking out possible places to visit and routes to take is almost as much fun as the actual trip for me.
The ravens entertained us regularly, weren’t shy and were very vocal. They’re quite the characters!
Jaws was in action nearly every day and is fattening up nicely (when I first started going to the viewing platform he was rather boney). I’ve noticed that the 2 sows seem to have shed their last year’s coats and both are nice and dark while the 2 boars still have lots of their old coat. Now we can see some of the dark hair and in time they will be dark and handsome. Too late for me, though.
Last Thursday evening while I was at the end of the platform (everyone else had moved the other direction to follow a bear) a little bat flew around and hovered nearby. It didn’t seem put off by me and another lady so when he landed on the railing to enjoy a bug I grabbed my camera. It was quite accommodating and it made for a rare treat to photograph this critter.
I left Hyder at lunchtime today (Aug. 15) and am in Smithers, on my way to Jasper. I met so many wonderfully friendly people while spending the hours at the bear viewing platform. Many have been going there for years, and others were newbies like me. Watching the bears was one common interest, with others the interest in wildlife photography gave us an added bond. Don’t know when if ever I’ll get back there but it sure would be fun!
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Viewing platform at Fish Creek
This is a section of the viewing platform above the creek where we watch the bears. It gives us quite a vantage point along the creek on one side and a quiet lagoon on the other at the end near the entrance. I’m enjoying this so much I extended my stay 2 days. Have found it works best to drive the short distance to the library and use their fast wifi to upload images, catch up on email, etc.
Late one evening the Black bear sow came down to the creek with her cub. In the evenings the mist rises and it created an interesting image. Since the Grizzlies have been around she is seldom at the creek and I’m afraid this may be my last image of her.
Another grizzly sow has started coming around, she is quite lovely with a very dark coat and seems in very good condition. I seem to get the best action shots from the boars but all are very interesting to watch.
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Days 2 & 3 in Hyder were fantastic as far as bear viewing goes. The days started out a bit damp but burned off nicely. Fish Creek bear viewing area is open from 6 am to 10 pm and you are liable to see bears any time during the day. I admit I am not there by 6 am, or even 8 am, but getting there by 9 works for me just fine.
There is one black bear sow with a little cub we’ve seen a few times. She stays away or leaves quickly at any hint of a grizzly.
This grizzly, called Jaws and easily distinguished by a damaged lower lip showed up Monday morning and put on quite a show. At times they can each appear to be totally inept at catching the salmon but in reality they can pick them out of the river like we pick meat up off the grocery counter.
It is fascinating to see the interaction between bears though it happens infrequently and quickly. The black bears stay away when any of the grizzlies are around and on Tuesday we got to see 2 grizzly boars at the same time but not near each other. Jaws is an older bear (between 13 and 20 they estimate) and looks it, the younger male, called Dog-bear looks to be in prime condition. When Jaws came around and saw the younger bear he headed down the creek well away from it. The last 3 photos at the link below show a series of images. Dob-bear had taken a fish into the rush to the right of the river. Jaws came out down river and got a fish which he took to theleft bank. A short time later Dog-bear came out and started stalking down the river, then burst into a run into the brush. He either was determined to chase Jaws away or get his fish, we’ll never know. But it was great to see!
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While in Valdez a couple of people I met suggested i go along the Denali Hwy. a bit, very scenic, etc. Since I was not pressed for time I decided to do just that so I went to Paxson and headed west on it for 21 miles to Tangle Lake BLM campground. Very different area than any other I’d seen in AK. Wide open spaces with snow capped mountains and glaciers in the distance. This first image will give you some idea of the country there. Vast spaces with very low shrubs, no trees, many small lakes (in the indents left from ice age glaciers). The campground was nice, very basic but neat and clean, dry camping in the wide open spaces. The road past the campground is gravel and goes over 100 miles west to connect to Parks Hwy (N/S) near Denali. I drove about 25 miles on the gravel and the country was the same, wide open spaces.
From there I headed south to Hyder, AK. To get there I went back to the Alaska Highway, stopping 3 times along the way for the night. The third night of the trip I was on the Cassier Hwy and stopped at Jade City (free parking lot stop), where I bought some mementoes of the trip).On the way into Stewart/Hyder I passed a couple of glaciers. Arrived in Hyder, AK, Sunday afternoon and secured a camp site for 8 nights. Hyder is well known to some because it is the site of a boardwalk along the Fish River where bear viewing is possible. Salmon are running and I am hoping to capture some special images. The boardwalk is in Tongass NF and there are rangers on hand while it is open, 6 am to 10 pm. My Sr. Pass gets me in free and I plan on making good use of it.
3 miles down the road from the site is the Run A Muck campground, it is really quite nice and very reasonable rates for full hookups (and senior discount, too).
After getting the trailer unhitched and hooked up, feeding and walking the dogs, I headed over to the viewing area and was able to see a black bear sow with her cub. She sent the cub up a tree and came back to the river’s edge to scrounge a dead fish which she then ate (after dragging another one back into the brush).
I’l be returning to the viewing area a couple of times a day for the next few days and hope to post more images soon.