August 16, 2008

A long and rainy drive from Anchorage to the Yukon boarder gave me much time to reflect on my week with the Katmai Bears. I come away with two main thoughts. One is that I have just witnessed something that will impact me forever, the behaviour of the brown bears in their natural habitat and the beginning of an understanding of these strong, intelligent and often gentle creatures. At the same time I am struck by a new level of respect, and yes, maybe fear, at having seen what they can do when provoked to full fury. I know clearly that the behaviour the Katmai Bears have towards human is unique and can not be applied to bears elsewhere. Therefore I am even more wary than before about hiking in the wilderness and parks with known bear inhabitants. I have learned so much about how bears interact with one another in a habitat undisturbed by hunting and human interference. I am thoroughly intrigued by their body language, facial expressions and antics which in many ways are so similar to horses. Secondly I am impressed by the dangerous and precarious life that the bears lead. As the world’s largest land predator one might believe that because they are at the top of the food chain, that their lives are quite mundane. On the contrary, I have seen that almost every bear has been scarred or injured by battle with other bears. The boars kill cubs regularly and the sows fight to protect their young. The young bears fight for a chance to breed and the old bears fight to maintain their status as alpha-male. They often battle with each other over the food that will sustain them over the long winter months of hiberation and give them the ability to birth healthy cubs in their winter dens. Recently I read a book that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning about bears. It is a true story called “Grizzly Heart” by Charles Russell and Maureen Ens. I must admit that until now I thought much of the book to be embelished. I now can see that it was not and can see why people become ‘bear addicts’. I am only a few hours away on the Top of the World Highway and already I miss the bears.

The photo attached is for Harley who managed to find a porcupine at home while walking with Andrea. I found this one in the Yukon this morning!

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