Southeast Alaska Day 9 – Anan Creek Bears

July 7, 2012

Black bear on trail to AnAn Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Black bear on trail to Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM)

It rained nearly the whole day, but I hardly noticed.  We were surrounded by bears, both black and brown, and somehow rain just wasn’t relevant.

Breakaway Adventures packed 12 of us into their landing craft style boat The Motivator for the one hour trip around the east side of Wrangell Island to Anan Creek Lagoon.  After disembarking, we checked in with a Forest Service ranger actually named Cody Bear.  Then, our guide, armed with a shot-gun, led us on the 1/2 mile hike to the Anan Creek Bear Observatory.  About half way down the trail, we had our first two bear encounters, including a black bear about 30 feet in front of us on the trail.  After he wondered off, we continued to the Observatory, a wood deck-like platform overlooking the creek, along with a photo blind-down at creek level.

Here, we watched bears for about three and a half hours, including an hour in the photo-blind.  In total, there was a mother brown bear with two second-year cubs, a black bear with a newborn cub and about five or six other black bears wandering around the creek and the woods nearby.  They ranged from 200 feet to 6 feet away.  Then we noticed one  sleeping right under the viewing platform literally a foot below people’s feet.

It seemed like the black bears would drop down to the creek, unsuccessfully paw around for fish, and climb back up into the woods.  They did this over and over.  We didn’t see a single black bear catch a fish, though you could see them working themselves into a bit of a frenzy when they were down by the river.  They were seeing fish, just not very successful in catching them.

Finally, a mother brown bear and her two cubs came by to show them how its done.  Aggressively chasing salmon through the water, she got one to jump the wrong way.  Landing on a boulder, the 2-foot long salmon was easily pinned down and the brown bear family had a meal.  45 minutes later, she caught another.

Black bear, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Black bear, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM)

 

Black bear sitting on stump, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Black bear sitting on stump, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM)

 

Black bear, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Black bear, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM)

 

How to catch a salmon in 6 easy steps …

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

1. Chase salmon through water.

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

2. Scare salmon out of water and onto rock.

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

3. Pin salmon to rock.

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

4. Sink teeth into salmon.

Brown bear fishing for salmon, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

5. Head back to shore.

Brown bear and two second-year cubs eating salmon, Anan Creek Bear Observatory, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

6. Enjoy with family and friends.

Continue to Day 10 – Mount Dewey and Sailing to Petersburg

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