Sharing moments in time…

Alaska – Clamming it up with the Bears


The Bears of Hallo Bay have two pretty good options for plentiful food – the grasses of the meadows and the clams in the tidal flats.  It was really interesting to watch the Bears at low tide on the flats find and eat the clams.  They kind of wander around sniffing the ground, find a promising spot, and dig a hole with a swipe or two of their powerful claws to get to the clam.  It was very unusual to see any of them dig a hole that didn’t contain a clam.  It was also interesting that each of the Bears seemed to have their own method for opening and eating the clam.  This one would put the clam on the back of one of its paws and then open it with its jaws – others had different methods.

Going to a clam bake??

As in the meadows our approach to the bears was to stake out an unthreatening position (kneeling with lots of room for the bear to move around us)  and let them determine how comfortable they are with our presence.  We  had a great view of them and they had an equal view of us as there was no foliage or cover  out on the flats.  In general we found them to be very comfortable with us and more times than not, they approached our positions pretty closely before moving on about their business.  It was a very exciting (but not frightening) experience to have them approach, cast a glance our way, and then continue the feeding ritual.  This photo gives a pretty typical view of what it looked like as they approached our positions – pretty cool, huh?

“You guys smell any good clams around here”??

29 responses

  1. Amazing photos! How long was your lens?

    July 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

    • BG – Thanks! most of this series were taken with a Sigma 150-500 on a Nikon D7000. The close up was probably close to the 500 and the second photo was probably more like 250-300.

      July 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

      • Love it. Would love to go to Alaska some day. Also love to see someone using an “offbrand” lens. I myself have a Tamron on a Canon – takes great pictures.

        July 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

      • My opinion is that this is a great lens for the price. It’s relatively light, great range, and seems to work great with the exception of low light environments (which doesn’t affect most of my shooting).

        July 24, 2012 at 10:57 am

      • Same way I feel about mine. And it’s a 2.8 all the way through. Can’t beat it.

        July 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

  2. Awesome shots!

    July 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    • Thanks Gracie – they were really fun to take!

      July 24, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  3. Love this post!

    July 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    • Thanks Melody! The first morning we were on the flats with them (where these photos came from) was REALLY special!

      July 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm

  4. Excellent captures!

    July 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    • Thanks Kurt – it was a great morning with the big beasties…

      July 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm

  5. NOW you can get a good gander at those claws! :O

    July 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    • Carol,
      Its amazing how they walk – the back feet are very flatfooted while the front paws are much more articulated. The claws of the front feet are always VERY prominent – even more than a lovable St Bernard…. 🙂

      July 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      • Haha! I know our dogs sometimes wear down their nails from digging. You’d think that would happen with a bear if they scratch trees, etc.

        July 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      • Carol, Good point, I don’t know why they don’t wear down maybe a good pedicurist?

        July 25, 2012 at 7:38 am

  6. purpleowltree1234

    What massive creatures. You can understand why some people like their pelts so much. You’d just sink into them, they’d be so deep. Those claws are just monsterous.
    We’ve been supporting WSPA’s campaign to get all bears out of cruel captivity (tiny cement cages) in Romania and into massive sanctuaries being erected for them. It is incredibly exciting to see photos of them in their new sanctuary, as they fill it. I think there will be over 70 bears in the sanctuary when it is finished. And no bears remaining in tiny cages in Romanian zoos anymore. It is beautiful to see your photos of the bears in the wild. Such dignity, such freedom and space.
    Do these brown bears (Grizzly bears?) attack humans very often?
    I am entranced with your photos of other worlds to mine. 🙂
    Rach.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:23 am

    • Rach – Great work with the WSPA! I wish you great success in helping out these incredible animals.

      Human attacks are VERY rare. When there is one, it is almost invariably people doing something stupid that surprises or antagonizes the Bears. The area we were in is near where Tim Treadwell (the “Grizzly Man” if you saw that movie) and his girlfriend were killed several years ago. Even though Treadwell had lived with the Bears for 13 summers, their deaths were due to some very stupid moves on his part and the fact that he had no deterrent options to use on the bear once it became aggressive. Our guide has been doing this type of trip for 15 years and while he carries both a flare (the bears hate loud noises, bright lights, and smoke) and pepper spray, he has never had to use either one in all that time.

      July 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

      • purpleowltree1234

        Wow. Vigilance and planning ahead sounds good to me. I guess Tim Treadwell just got complacent. So sad for someone so passionate about bears and so good at teaching people to respect them.
        Rach.

        July 25, 2012 at 9:43 am

  7. Awesome photos! That must have been an amazing sight to watch.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    • Northern Pixel,
      They were very cooperative and tolerant of us being there – it made for quite an incredible sensation. OBTW – I’m very impressed with your portrait work. I haven’t done that kind of photography much but I really like what you do.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm

  8. Amazing how they can locate those clams. I was just watching a documentary about polar bears which talked about their sense of smell. Apparently they can smell 2.5 times better than a bloodhound. I wonder if these bears are similar to the polar bears in that way.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    • Jackie,
      I don’t know the answer but they sure do seem to rely on their sense of smell a lot. You often see them sitting or standing and sniffing the air to get a feel for what is around them. They also don’t ever seem to miss on bringing a clam up 🙂

      July 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm

  9. Unbelievable!!

    July 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    • NOTT – Thank you! It was a great day.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      • Looks like it! So amazing to see the different ways of opeing the clams, huh? I would LOVE to see that – rom a distance! 😉

        July 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      • Jenni – Its amazing how soon you get comfortable with relatively close contact with the bears. The guide is there to put you in the best position – for the bears first and then for your experience – and also to be able to react to any unforeseen behavior. IT WAS GREAT

        July 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      • Sounds AMAZING!!!

        July 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm

  10. wow, that top shot is fabulous. Great moment!

    July 31, 2012 at 8:08 pm

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