JULY 2008   (revised October 17, 2008)

Amy Shapira and I headed to Alaska on July 20th. The next day around 10:00 AM we were in Wolverine Cove.  The weather wasn't great, as a matter of fact it was pouring. Alaska has been having a cold, wet summer overall.  However, the bears were there! The salmon were too.  The sockeye salmon will have it easy this year as the creek coming down from Wolverine Lake was still flowing well and the rocks, which are normally dry this time of year, were covered in water.  The fish still have a hard time getting up the first 100 yards of the creek and the bears were eating well because of it.  Baylee was there on that first day with three cubs of the year.  They were a milk chocolate color . . . three chocolate chips.

After three years of not seeing Redoubt Bay Lodge it was great to be back. The staff was first rate and the place looked very good. The new addition to the main cabin is done and quite comfortable. The two chefs asked me about Juan Carlos, as he has become sort of a legend there. They had no need to worry, though, as they were each remarkable as chefs in their own right. Amy and I wanted to spend all the time we could at the cove, so we only gave them a chance to "wow us" at dinner.  It was great to see Drew again and meet some new Redoubt Bay Lodge crew. Carl and staff had put together a very cute floating cabin for us which was moored to the dock. We took the oldest flatboat, the one we all called "ghetto cruiser", and tied it up at our front deck. We spent all our days and evenings in it, anchored at the cove.

Everyone at home has asked me if I thought Baylee recognized us.

I will tell you what she did and you decide.  

This is Baylee.   She was pretty close.

Baylee again, wearing aquatic greenery

Here she is with the three cubs

Baylee chasing a fish, maybe, or heading our direction, anyway

Baylee blew bubbles on our boat, brought her cubs to sleep on the rocks next to where we anchored and fished around us.  She glanced at us once in a while.  Both Amy and I were taking pictures this time, so our faces were behind a lens most of the time.  By Thursday night the salmon had started up the creek and all the bears had as much salmon as they could stuff in.  It was about that time when we noticed that Baylee didn't look well. She was panting, not eating anymore and foaming a bit at the mouth. She took the cubs up on the rocks to the left side of the cove, above where we were anchored, and started breaking down trees. She chomped on the bark for a while. The salmon were still running hard but she had backed off. The next day the smallest cub looked really sick. Everytime the cubs laid down somewhere Baylee threw a little dirt over it. Sadly, by Monday, she only had two cubs left.  The smallest one was gone.   UPDATE: a latter report from Drew at the lodge indicated that Baylee and her two cubs seemed fully recovered from whatever it was that made them sick.  

There were six three and a half year old brown bears in the area this year.  Two of them were probably Baylee's cubs from 2005. I had originally called them the velcro twins because they stuck together no matter what.  Now, they are still hanging out. One is female and she has become an excellent fishing bear.  Her brother waits for her to catch something and then tags along into the brush for his share.

The moment of the catch

There were also a group of three light colored teenage bears who seemed to be a group as well as one darker one who seemed to be around whenever the others were, but not necessarily a sibling.  He had a huge snout, giant paws and a sweet look.  Amy had to call him Teddy.

Teddy . . need I say more?

Actually, I do need to say more.  In the days following Werner Herzog's not very well researched movie about Tim Treadwell people seem to categorize people who have taken to observing bears as like Tim Treadwell.  Long before Mr. Treadwell came on the "scene" of people watching, trying to learn and live around bears their were guides, naturalists, lodge owners, biologists, fisherman, pilots  and people living in remote Alaska who have learned to share the habitat peacefully with bears.  They quietly do this year after year.  As I have said in the my book, the skills needed to do this are learnable by everyone.  But when we name bears, people assume that we look at them as pets and not wild animals.  The reason we name bears, rather than assign them a number, is that it is easier to keep them straight that way.  Guests who have been at a bear viewing site are used to this as each day they see the same bears and it is a way to connect their behaviors by saying "Oh, there is Irish," and you know in one word who her mother was, who her brother is, what her fishing style is and how old she is.  As you can see from the picture of "Teddy" it is easy to see human characteristics in a bears face.  Just like pilots who fly everyday and never take safety for granted, it is in our best interest and the bear's best interest to carefully define boundaries and be vigilant about a bear's space, needs and potential.  For more on this subject, if you haven't read Lonesome for Bears, you will find much more in the book.

I took about 1,800 pictures of bears while I was at the lodge this summer.  I am already doing an acrylic painting of one of them and have only been able to look at a few on the computer so far.   You can see more photos of the bears of wolverine cove on Amy's website:  

Amy's website

I had a great time seeing the lodge again and spending time with the bears.  We have some great stories, which I will share over time. Although I don't think there will be a sequel to "Lonesome for Bears", I have new stories to tell at my book readings.  I don't mind at all if you email me with comments and questions.

Email Linda

Please ask me before using my bear photos.  

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