I’m just arriving back from the 2017 Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku where we spent five days along the river photographing just that (grizzlies fishing the Taku River and its tributaries). The 2017 Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku sure stood up to its name, we had many grizzlies that were fishing (one we photographed for over an hour fishing in front of us). This year the river was full of salmon, and unlike last year, we weren’t competing with a crazy good berry season, therefore it drove upwards of 20 different Grizzly Bears to the rivers in order to pack on the pounds with high-calorie fish. Not only were the Grizzlies fishing, but the tended to grab the smaller Pink Salmon which they would then enjoy right in front of us (even if it took them 20 minutes, like one bear called Pablo). When they did catch a Chinook (or King) salmon they would often take it into the woods because it was like a three course meal the fish are so big, as these fish average up to 20 pounds and measure an average of 36 inches, so you can see why they would need to take it away to eat it all.
This year the trip was action packed, and more than just photographing the bears fishing, we started the trip off with a beautiful, almost 45 minute, ride over the mountains and large lakes to get us from Atlin, British Columbia, to the Bear Camp. It is one of the most stunning ways to see this unique landscape. Once we arrived at camp, we started seeing bears almost right away, and the action continued for the next five days. Watching, and more importantly photographing, bears fishing adds a new dynamic to the photos of a single bear when compared to a place like the Khutzeymateen where they are feeding on Sedge Grasses and doing the occasional clam digging. You get to watch the bears splash around in the water, or dive in from the shore, and we even watched one bear completely disappear under the water (ears and all) and snorkel to find the fish – I would show a picture but all it looks like is a splash in the water. You also get to see the bears battling the fish, either by trying to trap them in their paws, or keep a hold of them in their mouth while the fish try like crazy to get away, and the odd bear almost seemed to like to show his conquest to the crowd before enjoying it.
In addition to bears fishing, we were fortunate enough to have several bears rub on a rub tree that was right at the Bear Camp, and so close, that it was hard to get the entire bear in the frame even shooting at 100mm (the shortest lens I could put my hands on).
There were also a couple “battles” that happened among sub-adult males trying to establish dominance, unfortunately I was at a different viewing site when this occurred so I didn’t get any photographs, but the clients that were there were extremely happy. I did watch another once at a distance of two bears sussing each other out.
There were also a few different moms with cubs from cubs of the year two second year cubs. The mom with the cubs of the year was still a little bit apprehensive about bringing her cubs close-by, so we had to enjoy them at a distance, but the moms with the older cubs had no problem walking right by us with them, and fishing in front of us. It was interesting to watch how the different moms behaved with their cubs, with one mom being very greedy with her fish and smacking her cub around when it tried to steal her fish. Whereas another mom would catch fish and bring it back to her cub to share, and let the cub steal it away. I am curious to know whether one upbringing will lead to more successful adult than the other.
We had the opportunity to also photograph animals other than bears, there were Bald Eagles, although in fewer numbers than in the previous year, but more were coming in each day. There were other bird life such as Spotted Sandpipers, Common Mergansers, Crows, and Dippers (again in fewer numbers than previous year), and squirrels and hares hanging around the camp. A few of us were even lucky enough to see and photograph a Pine Marten as we walked back from one of the viewing sites. And for anyone interested in testing out their cameras AF settings, lots of Salmon jumping out of the water. There was certainly lots to see and photograph.
In addition to the many photographs that we walked away with, it is a unique experience just to sit alongside the river and listen to the river flowing, and the crunching of bones when the bear started eating a fish close-by. Unlike some other places where you can watch Grizzlies fishing, this trip is limited to 8 guests, so there are very few people that are witnessing some of the unique things that you are. It is just so calm and peaceful.
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