Tag Archives: grizzly bear

PHANTOM OF SOLOMAN GULCH

60-18-1Sneaking a peek from the thicket of salmon berry and mountain ash a brown bear checks to see if the coast is clear.  The bruin wants to get to the spawning pink salmon but is often kept away by a herd of nosy and noisy bad mannered tourists.  When the bear does arrive, rather than giving the bear plenty of room to feed,  tourists often crowd the bear hastening his departure before he has had his fill.

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Left:  Soloman Gulch

60-18-5The brown bear, hungry but shy pauses as he works up the courage to approach the salmon and the tourists. This reluctance is something I share with the big brown bear.

60-18-9 (2)As the tide moves out exposing fish killed by feeding Stellar’s sea lions,  the lanky brown bear cleans up.  The Stellar’s sea lions, are afraid of the bear and move away from shore.

61-18-4Like the brown bear, Stellar’s sea lions come to Soloman Gulch to feed on the millions of pink salmon arriving here to spawn.  Over the past twenty -five years, I have witnessed an increasing number of Sellar’s sea lions spending the first week of July near the mouth of Soloman Gulch.   This year I counted over one hundred sea lions together at a nearby resting site during low tide.

5504Pink salmon by the millions arrive at the mouth of Soloman Gulch to spawn.

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A stellar’s sea lion bites a pink salmon in half.  This is a common technique used by some of the sea lions.  I overheard some guy telling his wife that they bite them in half so they can swallow the fish in two pieces.  But what actually is happening is a bit different.  Like the bears, the lea lions soon tire of a straight diet of salmon and quickly begin to be more selective.  What they want more than anything are the eggs.  That’s why both bears and sea lions both often drop the males soon often they are caught.  When a sea lion catches an egg-laden female salmon they may bite hard  at the head end of the fish then violently jerk the fish to the side, ripping it in half and keeping the salmon head and guts along with the eggs in its mouth.  The photo above shows the sea lion had the wrong end of the salmon and was left with just a tail.  Visitors often comment on how wasteful the sea lions are but nothing really goes to wast.  Bears, gulls, bald eagles, sea otters, harbor seals get what the sea lions leave behind, not to mention all the other hungry fish and crabs and other marine scavengers.

60-18-10 (2)The brown bear grabs a small salmon and carries it back to the seclusion of Soloman Gulch.

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SECRET LIFE OF A FOREST HUNTER- PART ONE

 

DSC6522A female great gray owl spreads her wings as she gently lands on the edge of her nest to resume incubating her four eggs.   For two months this nest is the nucleus of activity for a pair of great gray owls.  Owls do not build their own nests. Instead they use a variety of ready-made and vacant nests, like this one built many years before by northern goshawks.  The great grays I had photographed three decades ago in Idaho prefered the bowled out tops of large broken pine trees for their nests.

DSC7359Eggs laid in the third week of April must be protected from the weather, as incubation begins with the first egg. The female does all the incubating and will sit on her eggs for thirty days.

DSC7473To gain access to the nesting great grays, more than fifty feet above the forest floor, I scabbed two long extensions ladders together and added an additional extension using two by fours.  I had located the nest thirteen years ago.  The three-foot wide nest was built by northern goshawks in a towering quaking aspen. Every spring I’d hike to the remote nest site to check its status. Goshawks had used the nest only once during the last thirteen years.

 

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From my self-imposed confinement in the lofty, swaying photo blind, I witnessed much more than just the daily activities of the great gray owls.  The female owl and I watched red squirrels, that rarely seen red squirrel predator, the marten, groups of migrating caribou, and a variety of bird life.  Early one morning, not long after arriving, a huffing grizzly bear sow and yearling cub who had caught my scent quickly moved off beneath the blind.  Once a curious cow moose who could hear my camera clicking finally looked up.

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DSC2049A couple of times a day the female flies off the nest to drink, cast her pellet and perhaps stretch before returning to her precious clutch of eggs.

DSC6427The male hunts for his mate and has just arrived with prey, a baby red squirrel.  The male, who hunts during the day using sight and sound, is an opportunist and preys on a variety of small birds and mammals.  Red-backed voles are by far the most important prey but shrews, small birds, and young snowshoe hares are also prey.  Adult red squirrels are usually too alert and quick to be given much attention by the hunting male.  But young squirrels, probably raided from their grass and sphagnum nests, are regularly on the menu.

LIFE CYCLE OF PINK SALMON

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Pink salmon show up in estuaries in early July by the millions. Pink salmon are Alaska’ most common salmon species.  They also have the shortest life cycle than other salmon species.  Pinks return to freshwater to spawn when they are two years old and immediately begin to  change from silver to green and dark gray.  And, males form hooked jaws and humped backs. Continue reading

LAST HOMESTEAD

aurora borealis-15-115Our home in the wilderness.

This post is in support of the recent story that appeared in the February 2016 issue of Country Magazine.  The story is about our families life in Alaska.  The following photographs are some that did not make the final layout in the magazine.  Several Country Magazine readers have requested to see more photos.  This is for you. Continue reading

FAREWELL FRED

fred rungi-11-4Fred Rungee at his cabin in September 2011.

Fred Rungee, everyone’s favorite mountain man in these parts, passed away on March 27, 2015 after spending more than 70 years in the Alaskan wilderness. He was ninety-three.  After retiring from the BLM as a fire management officer, he moved to a remote valley near Slana, Alaska and built a cabin.  His cabin,  “a short two and a half mile hike up the creek and then another half mile of side-hilling along the lake”,  kept Fred fit and ever young at heart.

carlson lake-1Fred’s beloved Lake in winter. He loved the solitude of those long winter months.

fred rungi-11-9Fred’s’ cabin, perched on a bench of bedrock overlooking a wilderness lake, is bear-proof and beautiful.

fred rungi-11-7One of Fred’s’ final days at his wilderness cabin.

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The old cross-cut saw kept the bears out of a small outbuilding.

Fred’s bear story.  To listen to the audio clip, click on left side of the bar. Volume on right side.

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Fred loved his gray jays.

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Walking the trail near his cabin.

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“Sit down and have something to eat.”  Guests were always welcomed with a bite to eat. Living mostly out of tins of food, Fred claimed to have “traveled several miles” around the tops of those tin cans with a can opener.

Farewell Fred.

BOARS, THE MOST DANGEROUS GRIZZLIES?

15-11-14  Grizzly boar.

What happens in a close encounter with a grizzly bear is dependent on a lot of factors.  What you do is important but the most important factor might boil down to which of the local bears you have just run into. Not all grizzly bears are the same.  In fact they are all individuals, with different habits and temperaments.  Sub-adults, lacking experience and confidence, often travel with a sibling for extra security and status.  Females with cubs don’t like close surprises.  Sows with cubs attack people more often than other classes of bears.  These defensive attacks can be very serious but rarely end in death. Continue reading