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.
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.
Two grizzly bear cubs watch and learn as mom fishes for salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest.
“In the beginning of time, the world was white with ice and snow. The creator, Raven, came from heaven and made the world green as it is today. But he wanted to make something to remind the people of the beginning so they would be thankful for the lush and bountiful land of today. So, Raven made one in every ten black bears white to remind the people of a time when glaciers covered this land." Spirit Bear Lore of the Kitasoo Xai'xais First Nation
The Spirit Bear 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. Spending several hours last week with this young male as he fished for salmon was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in the wild.