The phantom of the north hunts the tree line during a snow storm at dusk. Great grey owls may sit perched for hours patiently listening for a rustle of movement beneath the snow.
This was my last sighting of grizzly 399 and her two cubs for the season as she made the most of gut piles left over from hunters. It looks like she has denned up for the winter. She was the very first grizzly I saw and photographed. I grew up spending my summers in Jackson, and dreamed of seeing a grizzly from my earliest days, but it took a while. When I finally turned 16 and got my driver’s license I had a little bit more flexibility. With that I was able to go into the field on my own schedule and spend all the time I wanted waiting around. That was the summer I saw her. I remember the adrenaline and excitement like it was yesterday. She will always be very special to me, and I know there are many people who feel similarly.
A spirit bear snags a silver salmon. Biologists think the white coat makes them more successful when fishing. From the perspective of a fish looking through white water and upwards to the sky, it is a lot easier to detect a black coat, than a white one.
After snorkeling and successfully catching a Silver Salmon, a Spirit Bear shakes off his wet coat. It took me four trips to the Great Bear Rainforest before I had the privilege of photographing the Spirit Bear. It is a rare subspecies of black bear that lives only along the central and northern coast of BC. There are less than 400 Spirit bears in existence, making them one of the rarest bears on the planet.
As winter settles and temperatures reach -40 degrees, perhaps no animal is as well prepared to survive in this unforgiving climate.
The distinct shoulder hump on their back, which is actually a protruding muscle, allows them to function as a 1 ton, living snow plow. Unlike other ungulates, such as moose and elk, which scrape with their front feet to access food under the snow, bison use this muscle to rock their massive heads back and forth exposing grass and sedge buried under several feet of snow. Some bison will opt out on this “snow-plow” technique, preferring to graze alongside thermal features where the warm steam from geysers or hot springs melts the snow on the surrounding grass.
When violent winter storms hit, prompting other wildlife to seek shelter from the chilling wind and blinding snow, bison just plop down where they are and wait it out. Their winter coats are so thick and well insulated that the falling snow doesn’t even melt on their back. In a heavy snow, you can watch the largest land animal North America vanish before your eyes in a matter of moments.
A humpback whale dives to begin bubble-net feeding in the Great Bear Rainforest.
An ermine takes a brief moment to stand up and take in it’s surroundings before resuming the frantic hunt for prey at what appears to be lightspeed. It’s near impossible to keep track of these weasels for more than a few moments. They trade a brown summer coat for a white one each winter. Their cranked up metabolism allows them to keep warm by compensating for their lack of body fat.
Shortly after I photographed the ermine, I located a family of river otters, which are also a member of the weasel family. We tend to have negative connotations with the word “weasel”, but some of my favorite animals to spend with and observe are weasels.