Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bears Fishing - McNeil River Falls, McNeil River Sanctuary, Alaska

In late July, I spent four full days at McNeil River Falls in the McNeil River Sanctuary, Alaska to photograph bears. As the Chum Salmon run peaked, a large number of brown bears (grizzlies) congregated at the river for this big feast opportunity. The full river of salmon slows down at McNeil River Falls (more likely cascades rather than waterfalls). The falls are a premium spot for large male bears. Dozens of bears fish in the small area of the falls.

Each bear has his own unique fishing style - some bears stand right on top of the falls and wait for fish to jump or leap up. When fish successfully climb the few feet of the falls, hungry bears wait at the ready.

For several days this bear (a rare female ) stood at the same spot at the falls looking down the cascade. When a fish swam near her, she would quickly snatch it up! She was very skilled and caught more fish than any other bears in the area.

Some large males sit in the white water of a cascade, staring at the water until fish swam by.

This bear stood with three legs in the water with his left hind leg against the vertical surface of the rock. When fish passed by, he tried to thrust himself in the water... but it wasn't successful...

While most other bears fished patiently and methodical, this young bear tried another method of fishing. He leaped and pounced into the water, splashing, came up with nothing, shook off the water, and pounced again and again. It looked like a waste of energy in that method, but after many tries, he finally caught a fish.

This bear is "Snorkeling." He floats on the surface of water, keeps eyes underwater searching for fish swimming by.

This large male with a fresh deep scar, sat in the icy cold rapids for hours... he stares at the current, and when fish swim close by, he quickly dives and snatches it. He is one of the more skilled bears. He was staying at a rough deep part of the river with waves crashing on him time and time. I admired his endurance. I was happy to see him catch some fish. He didn't waste his time, he ate his catch at his fishing spot, in the rushing water.

Photographing bears has been my passion since I started nature photography... I have visited some amazing bear viewing locations, but I have never seen this many bears gathered at one spot! McNeil River Falls was truly magical.

Now back at home, I'm still editing thousands of images... I will keep updating with more bear images for my next posting. Please check back later!