Brown Bear Cubs, Alaska

Brown Bear Cubs, Lake Clark National Park

Are we fighting or dancing?

I was in Alaska recently.  I spent the first week of this month photographing brown bears in Lake Clark National Park.  If you’re interested in photographing brown bears, Lake Clark is a good place to go and Silver Salmon Creek Lodge (SSCL), where I stayed, offers excellent accommodations.  In fact, the lodge provides full services, including meals/lodging, flights to and from the lodge and a guide.  My guide, Jim, has an M.S. in Wildlife Biology and his thesis involved bears.  SSCL is already taking reservations for 2019, but I think it still has some openings for 2018.  The lodge is about 100 air miles southwest of Anchorage.

If you’re thinking of going, you may be wondering when is  the best time?  That depends. I’ve been there the first and last weeks of July.  My understanding of what happens there in June, July and August follows.

June.  June is mating season.  I understand most of the big boars leave the area by the end of June.  Also, the ones that remain into July have lost their luxuriant winter coats by the end of June, if not before.  What kinds of foregrounds and backgrounds will you have to photograph the bears in in June?  The bears will be feeding primarily on sedge grass, which I like to photograph them in.  They will also be feeding on razor clams when the tide is very low.  That’s another setting I like.

July.  It’s my understanding that the sows with cubs, at least spring cubs, don’t arrive until the big boars have left.  Boars kill and eat cubs.  So, if you want to photograph cubs, July is a good time.  When I was there this year most of the sows and all of the cubs still had their winter coats.  The foregrounds and backgrounds you will have will be the same as in June.

August.  In August, the silver salmon/coho start migrating up Silver Salmon Creek.  The bears will focus on eating as many of them as they can to fatten up for the long winter.  The big boars may return at this time, but you should check with the lodge on that (plus everything else I’ve said).  I don’t know what the color of the sedge grass is in August, but I’m guessing it would still be green.   I don’t think I need to describe the setting for the bears standing in the creek trying to catch salmon.  There are no falls, at least at the lower end of the creek, so don’t expect to photograph bears standing at the top of some falls with their mouths wide open catching jumping salmon, like McNeil Falls is famous for.  But you won’t have to fight with hordes of people either.


About Jim Coda

I am a nature photographer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I specialize in photos of birds, mammals, and landscapes.
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2 Responses to Brown Bear Cubs, Alaska

  1. charlotte crackbon says:

    Glad you got to enjoy these bear cubs, they are adorable.

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