Bears in the Creek - Hyder, Alaska

These pictures were all taken in and around the town of Hyder, Alaska. This is a very small place, almost (but not quite) a ghost town, just over the border from Stewart, British Columbia. In fact, the only way to get to Hyder is via Stewart.

There is a separate album with pictures of "non-bear" subjects taken in this area that can be seen here, but this album is devoted solely to bears.

Where the road from Canada reaches the border post, it deteriorates into a single-lane dirt road that becomes the main street in Hyder. For a few miles beyond Hyder, this road parallels "Fish Creek" where the Bears come in the fall to feed up on salmon in preparation for winter.


5865 There are two kinds of bear in Alaska, this is the smaller "black" bear. I caught him in my lens, peering at me from behind a small embankment at the side of the road. There appear to be some burrs or thorns or porcupine needles stuck in his nose


5902 It is in the shallow creek itself where the main action takes place. Here the salmon return from the ocean to spawn at the end of their lives, and this is where the bears prowl to try and catch one for lunch. This is the larger Grizzly Bear - they tend to be dominant and the smaller Black Bears stay out of the creek (the food source) while the grizzlies are around,


5913 The shallow creek is thick with salmon swimming upstream to spawn and then die. But on the way they run the gauntlet of hungry bears who try to catch them and feed on the good bits.


5938 The main technique is for the bear to leap to where a salmon is swimming and pin it down to the creek bed with his front paw - and then take a big bite out of it to kill it. Here the bear is subsequently tearing out the good bits. In lean times they may eat nearly the whole fish, but when fish are abundant, they may eat just the roe and the fatty central portion, leaving the rest to the sea-gulls.


5965 Some years ago, this quiet little spot, known only to relatively few photographers, achieved fame in a German magazine when a photographer from that country wrote an article with accompanying pictures. This unleashed a flood of German tourists to this isolated and hard to reach little spot in Alaska. Because in any crowd there will be at least one idiot who thinks Grizzly Bears are cute and would enjoy being fed a cookie, the authorites decided it would be wise to erect a sign in two languages - recognizing the popularity of the site with German tourists.


6015 Here a grizzly is patrolling the bank looking for a snack. (The remains of a previous snack can be seen under his right front paw.


6053 Seconds later, after a quick pounce, the prize is carried ashore for leisurely dining.


6074 Bear Patrol - A mother bear will train her cubs in the art of foraging for two seasons. Here a mother is leading her three cubs and will show them how she captures a fish - and will then share it with them. The cubs will try and catch their own but still nead to learn the art of stealth - the salmon are very good at detecting an approaching bear and can swim away with an explosive burst of speed.


6095 Here we can see where the fish have detected an approaching bear - the spray in the bottom right corner is caused by the salmon exploding into a sprint to evade the bear.


6204 A hungry bear will sometimes give chase to fleeing salmon - occassionally with success, but usualy such attempts are futile because the fish is much more agile in being able to dart and avoid a looming paw.


6210 If there are a lot of fish around, success is more likely. Besides the fish in the Bear's mouth, in this picture we can see that there are others within striking distance. Just behind the bear's left front paw, above his rump and towards the top right corner of the image is visible evidence showing above the surface - it is safe to assume there are even more fish completely under the surface and not visible to the camera.


6214 If a front paw has succeeded in nailing a fish, it will promptly have a large bite taken out of it to ensure it is no longer capable of escape - and is then taken to bankside for leasurely consumption.


6217 Otherwise we look around for another victim.


6236 A fish's last moments - the bear has spotted this fish and is in pursuit ready to lunge. The intended victim is dead ahaead of the bear - while two or three other potentials make good their escape with a burst of speed to the bear's left - as evidenced by the spray from deparately flapping fish-tails.


6245 Compare the size of this fish to the bear. This is a huge fish.


6265 Grizzly bears are generally larger and more heavily built than other bears. They can be distinguished from black bears by longer, curved claws, humped shoulders, and a concave face. The average weight of grizzly bears in this part of Alaska (where food is more abundant) is generally 600 to 800 pounds for males and 350 to 450 pounds for females. They generally live to be around 25 years old.


6487 Not all bears are in the creek - especialy if there are other bigger more dominant bears currently feeding there. In this case, other bears will stay out of the way, preferring to watch from a slightly higher spot where they can monitor the traffic in the creek and dash in for a quick snack when it is safe.


6491 The rocks on the hill-slopes above the creek are a favorite lookout point for bears. There are some quite close to the road (which runs along the creek here) which can lead to some surprise encounters for the unwary photographer walking back to his car.


6503 Notice the coloration difference between this bear and the previous image. I'm not sure if this is a function of age in this case, or maybe the previous bear is a Black Bear.


6565 I'm pretty sure this was a Black Bear - he was on the hillside, eating berries for dessert.


To see the album with pictures of "non-bear" subjects taken in this area, click here.