Posts Tagged ‘spirit bear’

Recently, I’ve seen a National Geographic Magazine documentary about the selection and making of their best ten 2011 photographs. You can see all ten photographs at:  Top Ten 2011 NGM Photos

I liked best the spirit bear story and the photo of the white bear laying contently in the moss-draped green rain forest. If you ignore the bloody salmon between his paws, the bear looks almost angelic in that setting. However, the report of the photographer coming to the close proximity of the bear is the really dangerous stuff. According to Chris Johns, Editor in Chief at NGM:

“Paul Nicklen, the photographer is a master at getting closer. He gets close enough to take this beautiful forest with this beautiful bear, eating a salmon, and make it all come together in a photograph that captures your imagination. I feel like I’m there. I can almost smell that forest, the bear. This is Paul’s home. This looks like a photo he took in his backyard of a dear friend.”

To see the whole series of the spirit bear photographs, click on the following link White Spirit Bear Photos

Western Canada is the only place in the world that’s home to this unusual form of black bear, whose fur is white due to a genetic abnormality (it’s not an albino). The white spirit bear is also called kermode, and with total population of about 200, it is a more rare species than the panda bear.

Paul Nicklen reports that he spent two months looking for the bear, when “this incredible big white male came right beside me about three feet away, he grabbed a fish and ate it. I then spent my entire day living my childhood dream – walking through the forest with this bear. I actually got to sleep within three feet of him and photograph him. It was a truly amazing experience.”

I have to confess that about twelve years ago in northern Ontario, I came close enough to a large black bear to feed him an apple. Right between his teeth.  OK, it was a captive bear in a large fenced-in enclosure, and I went in with a warden, but if we had ran out of apples, that bruin could have made a winter food cache of both of us. Mellow fellow, but really big, and drooling too much for my taste. All this white foam coming out of the black mouth from the shooter’s perspective was just too contrasty, and trust me, not a pretty picture. It seems that Pavlov’s conditioning experiment works also on bears – he definitely associated our visit with food.

I’m glad for Paul that he was able to fulfill his childhood dream and walk all day through the forest with the bear, but reports like this may entice some well-meaning hikers to approach wild black or grizzly bears, and these encounters often end tragically. As reported in my previous post, just last month in Alaska, a large grizzly bear killed and partially devoured an experienced hiker who got too close to the bear.

Hiker, killed by a grizzly

Now, it could well be, that the bears on a salmon diet are much calmer and of a better disposition than the grizzlies grazing on Denali tundra or starved black bears during a dry summer in Algonquin Park. I can attest that after eating a smoked or grilled Pacific salmon I feel also at peace with the world around me.


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