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Bears in the Creek - Hyder, Alaska

The primary reason for going to Hyder in Alaska is to see the bears. A couple of miles outside of this ghost town, along a dirt road, you come to a little bridge where Fish Creek goes under the road and joins up with another little tributary near a lagoon.

This is not like a zoo or a circus where the animals are on display and can bee seen on schedule. One needs a certain amount of patience and luck, but after maybe half an hour, or an hour, or two hours, a bear (or bears) will appear in the creek to feed on salmon. The salmon return here from the ocean to spawn and start a new generation before they die. Thus at the right time of year, the creek is teeming with salmon - and the bears come down to feed and stock up on nutrients (particularly fat) to see them through hibernation in the coming winter.


4313 This is a mature female grizzly and she came into the creek every day we were there. She was accompanied by a single 6 or 7 month-old cub which she was teaching how to feed - how to catch salmon and which berries are best along the creek bank.



4284 Together, mother and cub would investigate the freshly-expired fish (that had finished spawning and died naturally) and if there was a particularly good one, the mother might take a bite out of one and encourage the cub to do the same. But She much preferred to go to the effort of catching a live fish - particularly a female that had not laid its eggs yet, as that is the most nutritious. But it has to be caught first...



4117 Spawning salmon will swim side-by-side against the current - essentialy staying in one spot over the gravel bed in the stream where the eggs will be laid and fertilised. The bear approaches and may be lucky to be able to pin one down with his (or her) paw to the creek bed, prior to grasping it in her jaws. Or she may lunge directly at the fish with her jaws.

But more often than not, the fish will detect the approaching bear just in time, and explode in a spray of water - sprinting in all directions to get out of the bear's reach. In this case, one member of the pair has taken off towards top left, the other towards bottom right, and the bear has lost her chance.



3924 Sometimes the bear will lunge directly



4420 On catching a fish, she will usualy take it into the bushes on the creek bank to share it at her leisure with her cub - but sometimes she'll munch the fish right there in mid-creek and encourage the cub to go get his own. (A soft growl gets the message across)



3832 The cub may take the sure way out and go pick up an already-expired fish to take to the bank and chew some some chunks out of it. Or...



4417 As the cub matures and grows more confident, he may leave aside any dead fish and choose instead to chase some living salmon.



4405 Some sea-gulls are present in the creek, also feeding off the plentifull dead fish. Every so often the gulls may fly down the river - low over the bear cub. The bear cub would like to claw them out of the sky, but it is a vain gesture - reminiscent of Snoopy shaking his fist in the air and crying out "Curse you Red Baron!)



4377 Check out the size of the claws on a 6-month old bear cub! Check out the zize of the salmon in the creek - somewhere arount 3+ feet!



4396 Sometimes the bear cub may actually succeed in pinning down a live salmon, but usualy one that has already spawned and that has become lethargic just prior to expiring.



4110 Meanwhile, the mother bear is out in the creek, prowling for the next one.



4402 There are other bears in the creek - this one is known as "Dog Bear" - I'm not sure why.



4120 Another denizen of this stretch the creek is Monica. On previous visits in years gone by, Monica had the starring role of the mother with cubs. The last time we visited, she had three cubs in tow. On this visit we didn't see her for the first few day and the rangers told us that she was now past child-bearing age and might have moved elsewhere.

But on our last day, suddenly there she was - as if to re-assure us that all was well and she was doing OK. It is thought (but nobody knows for sure) that the mother bear in the earlier pictures is a child of Monica, and that the cub is a grand-child.

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