Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hot Bear Naked Action

I had the good fortune to spend nearly 6 hours at the Anan Wildlife Observatory with 4 awesome New Zealanders yesterday.  Bears and Kiwis are a good combination with high potential for a memorable time.  I quickly broke the ice and created a relaxed and familiar atmosphere by mistakenly calling my new Kiwi friends Aussies!  (My apologies to you guys once again!)  Calling a Kiwi an Aussie is similar to calling an Alaskan a Canadian, neither one is that bad but one is most definitely better than the other!  Good on ya New Zealand, we know what's what!  May your chilly bins never be empty of cold ones!

Moving on from good hearted regional rivalries to bears, we had the entire observatory nearly to ourselves with only one FS employee and one Russian photographer sharing the space with us all afternoon into the early evening.  In the morning, there were 62 people at the observatory, most of whom came from a cruise ship called The World that was moored in Wrangell for two days so, while the bear viewing was still good, it was a crowded and chaotic atmosphere as compared to the peaceful and idyllic afternoon.  The bears seemed to appreciate the tranquility in the afternoon as well as they really gave us an experience that only Anan can provide.

A gallery of dead Dungeness crabs greeting us at the trailhead shelter where the Forest Service ranger, Leah, gave us our required safety briefing.  There is obviously a fair amount of "down time" for the rangers while they staff the trailhead but you couldn't ask for a better office!

There have been 4 juvenile Ravens making the observatory their regular hang out over the last couple of weeks.  The only thing more inquisitive and slyly intelligent than a Raven is a juvenile Raven!  These guys have added a fun element to Anan this year and have been a pleasure to watch.  I am making progress in befriending one of them and had it come to me and peck my fingers several times yesterday as I pretended to have food to offer.  I guess I will have to sneak some food up there the next time or pick up some leftover fish parts so I can offer them some real food and further make their acquaintance!

This is a juvenile brown bear, probably 4 years old, demonstrating how dexterous they can be with those massive jaws and teeth by precisely biting through this pink salmon's head to eat its brain.  This is not a zombie brown bear with an unholy preference for brains to appease its undead appetite, it is merely selecting the parts of the fish with the most nutritional value.  In this case, that nutritional value is the high fat content found in the brain of we organisms possessing one.  It is not uncommon for bears to only eat the brains and eggs of these fish once they have begun putting on weight.  They will even toss aside a male fish uneaten and go back to their fishing spot to try again for a female containing those rich, nutritious eggs.  Bears will also use their paws to hold a female fish on a rock and then press the eggs out of it in order to lap up those little pearls of calories.

This mama bear and her cub fished on the opposite shore of the creek from the juvenile bear.  That is what this cub in particular was watching so intently.

I'm a bit disappointed in those two above photos as I thought that I got the little brown bear cub in frame as well.  At the top left of the photo is a fairly large black bear nervously observing the scenario playing out below it as the juvenile brown bear is now on the same side of the creek as mama and her cub.  As is the case so often with teenagers of any mammal species, this juvenile bear seemed overly sure of itself and didn't have quite the respect for the older bear and her cub that it should have had.

In this photo, you can see that the black bear has made itself scarce and retreated quite a bit further up the steep hill above the creek while the juvenile brown bear continues to push its luck and mama does what any wise and experienced adult does and ignores the teenager to the best of her ability.

Does this photo remind anyone else of John Belushi in the movie, Animal House?  This little bear is not doing an impression of a talented but long dead comedian nor is it doing some sort of little bear dance, it is trying to find mama who, a little too nonchalantly and inattentively, began to move off down the creek.  This little guy lost sight of her amidst the large boulders lining the creek and climbed up here for a better look around while bawling out its version of "MOM!!"
While this did get mama's attention, it also unfortunately got the attention of the cocky teenager who seemed too interested in the possibility of bullying, or killing, its potential future competitor.

The juvenile bear got the little cub cornered out on this log and, seeming to realize that mama was nowhere around, took on a more aggressive posture and attitude coming at this cub with what seemed like very ill intent.  At this point, neither mama nor the juvenile were aware of each other.

This photo was just a fraction of a second later than the previous one but shows a difference in mama's demeanor.  The juvenile still has not noticed mama but mama has noticed her.  A close look at mama's face and body in the first photo shows a slightly casual expression and energy about her with her left ear slightly turned toward the creek with the right facing forward.
The second shows a more tense and focused look and energy with both ears directed forward.  She has a look of purpose and intent about her.

Now cocky teen has seen protective mom and has quickly realized an important life lesson.

The cub has obviously gratefully reunited with mom.  Interestingly, mom was not demonstrating overly pissed off behavior at this point but she was making it extremely clear that she was not happy with what she was seeing.  The juvenile did its best to present a cool demeanor and tried to seem casual as it walked away, which must have pushed mama's buttons.  She charged the juvenile who, with no hesitation whatsoever, took off at a full sprint straight up the steep and rugged hill with mama close behind.  She chased that kid all the way to the top of the slope, over the top, and our of sight with baby doing its best to keep up!
Within what seemed like minutes, mama and baby were back down in the creek fishing like nothing had happened.

These 3 photos were not from yesterday although there were several black bear cubs in the area.  Black bear cubs are just so dang cute I wanted to share them with you.

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