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
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
the creek and the bears were eating well because of it.
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
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
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.
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
once in a while. Both Amy and I were taking pictures this
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
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
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
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
originally called them the velcro twins because they stuck together no
matter what. Now, they are still hanging out. One is female
she has become an excellent fishing bear. Her brother waits
her to catch something and then tags along into the brush for his
The moment of the
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
huge snout, giant paws and a sweet look. Amy had to call him
Teddy . . need I say
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:
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
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
all if you email me with comments and questions.
Please ask me before using my bear photos.
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