Updated: Apr 3, 2022
I get this question often. While I love all wildlife and nature, bears are my jam. My family has lived in Jackson Hole Wyoming for 35 years. On all my trips to Wyoming, I would get up well before sunrise and search for bears. I have always been driven to find and observe bears in their natural habitat. In the lower 48 states, I have occasionally been rewarded with glimpses of bears through scopes at great distances, as well as in the now famous National Park "Bear Jams".
My father, who is an avid fly fisherman, has a strong...dislike for bears, due to constant conflicts with them on Steel Head trout fishing trips . After watching us search for bears over the years in WY, one day he suggested that we (my hubby is also an avid fisherman) should go to Alaska- where Steve could fish, and I could observe bears all day, every day, up close and personal.
Our first trip to Alaska was beyond magical. Stepping off the float plane into the middle of a lake, deep Katmai wilderness, we waded to shore not knowing what to expect. There were no bears in sight- I was used to that. However, when I looked down, I saw hundreds of grizzly paw prints of all sizes on the beach. I started to giggle with glee and anticipation. I spent every day of that trip with countless bears. Observing grizzly behaviors, their interactions with one and other and habits- it was a total immersion in the world of bears- as my Dad had predicted. I LOVED every second.
On our third day in Katmai, we were standing on shore watching a mother grizzly and her 2 year old cub, fish, and play together. After about an hour with us, the mother led her cub directly to us, they sauntered into the grasses to the left of us (around 30 feet away) and proceeded to settle in for a serious nap. It was one of the most remarkable life experiences that I have ever had. Fellow photographers tease me, because to this day, I love watching bears sleep (we get tons of opportunities to do this). I still find it to be the highest compliment that a bear (or any predator) can give- that they trust me enough to get a little shuteye in my presence.
On this trip, I was also introduced to the threats to the Alaskan wilderness, the salmon population, and grizzly bears from the Pebble Mine activity. So, I guess you can say that my love for bears, and my passion for protecting them became ingrained on that journey. I find that watching mothers and cubs together touches me profoundly. Seeing how affectionate and caring mother bears are with their young is something that I am constantly amazed by. The cubs are mischievous and playful while the mom has to vigilant, constantly watching for danger, very protective and ready to defend her cubs.
In spite of their gentle side, I am well aware of how know dangerous bears can be, and that is also a part of my fascination. You don’t get to the top of the food chain by being a sweet teddy bear. And the fact that we can coexist with bears in some regions, and we are challenged to manage
Bears are fierce and caring, powerful and vulnerable and that’s why they need our help. Over the years since that time, I have had the pleasure of working to protect bears of all shapes and sizes. Ongoing and increasing threats to the world bear population come from many avenues. I want to bring you their stories and to engage you in the changes that might help keep bears around for many generations to enjoy.