Two Bears Bridge
May 13, 2008
We were on our way back to camp near Brooks Falls, Alaska, one July day a few years ago when I took this photo of two brown bears (ursus arctos, aka grizzly bears). To get to camp, we needed to cross this bridge. As we approached, we saw this sow and her cub crossing the bridge toward us. It is not a good situation to meet a bear on a bridge, so we retreated to a nearby safety platform thinking that the bears would soon cross over the bridge and we would be on our way. Alas, it was not to be. The bears spent at least two hours walking, looking at the river and napping. This is a prime spot for catching salmon once the annual spawning migration is underway. Needless to say, we missed lunch, but it was more than made up for by the entertainment provided by the bears.
One of the main rules of walking the trails near Brooks Falls is: do not surprise a bear! However, this isn’t always easy. The advice for hikers who do encounter a bear is to back up facing the bear and clapping your hands but, do not look into the bear's eyes. A story is told about a group of hikers who came upon a bear. Everybody backed up except one woman who fell to the ground and pretended to be dead. The bear approached her, smelled her and then lay down next to her. Her horrified friends ran for a ranger, who was able to get the woman safely away from the bear. Fortunately for this woman, the salmon it likely recently consumed may have sated the bear's appetite.