Alaskan Teddy Bear

Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sitting up

In the summer, Alaskan coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos) congregate near the shores of the sea and other bodies of water waiting for wild salmon to come back to the very streams they were born in and swim upstream to reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth and lay their eggs. Clearly, this offers the bears a wonderful opportunity to hunt salmon and feed off of their flesh and especially their eggs, of which they are particularly fond.

The salmon run is particularly important to the bears because the hibernation period is fast approaching and brown bears enter a phase known as hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the hibernation months.

However, sometimes the salmon are a little late on their spawning schedule… or the bears are a little early for the party, which means that the bears have some time to kill while they wait for their favorite prey to arrive. So bears go into “energy saving” mode and they just lazily hang out near the water waiting for their lunch to be served.

The coastal brown bear in the image above was just sitting in the sun near a river in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, probably daydreaming of the hordes of sockeye salmon it will soon start chasing all over the place…

To me, it looked just like a teddy bear neatly arranged in a sitting position by a toy store salesperson! 😉

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As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

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25 thoughts on “Alaskan Teddy Bear

  1. Tracy Lee Karner

    Looks deceptively sweet and doofy. Really drew me in.

    Maybe you should run a funny caption contest (like the New Yorker)–you could give a print of the photo as the prize to whomever comes up with the best caption (I’m hoping I do), and then you could sell your photos as greeting cards. I’d pick this one out of the display rack.

    I’m not sure if there’s any money in selling photo greeting cards… I know there’s a woman who sells cards/postcards of photos particular to Providence at an Italian deli/restaurant with high tourist volume. Her rack is right by the cash register so people browse it while they’re waiting in line.

    With all your wildlife photos, you could have a whole signature line…

    Reply
  2. the winegetter

    I totally see what you mean regarding the toy store look. Awesome! I am glad I only ever ran into a smallish black bear in Alaska (although it was a mother bear with two cubz!). This seems a different caliber…

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Oliver: yes, those bears are well fed and tend to be pretty big – not as big as polar bears though. Those are really huge (and dangerous)!

      Reply
    2. Stefano Post author

      Yes, these are pretty big bears, BUT, the good thing is that they get to see relatively few people and (unlike brown bears in more crowded National Parks) they tend not to associate people with food yet – plus that time of the year they have an abundance of their favorite food anyway. So, as long as you don’t do anything stupid, they are aware of you and accept you as just another animal in the ecosystem, which is way cool. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much! 🙂 So glad you liked it – enjoy your trip to Alaska, it is so gorgeous a place to be in. I am sure you will have a wonderful time and plenty of photo opps: can’t wait to see what you come back home with! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Map of Time

    Aw, it’s cute, in a rather frazzled way. The ears look so soft. Love how you were able to capture the goofy expression on its face. So while in “energy saving mode” that means he doesn’t try to eat the photographer? 😉

    This Kodiak (I’ve never seen it so have no idea about the size, but I’ve heard it’s enormous) was at one time on display at the museum. Would NOT want to run into something like that. http://www.courierpress.com/photos/2013/jun/21/143759/

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, JG! 🙂 Yes, that’s kind of what I meant! 😉 The good thing is that apparently salmon tastes so much better than human flesh 😉 so you are realtively safe around them during the salmon run. As I told Oliver in response to an earlier comment, these bears get to see relatively few people and (unlike brown bears in more crowded National Parks) they tend not to associate people with food yet. So, as long as you don’t do anything stupid, they are aware of you and accept you as just another animal in the ecosystem, which is way cool.
      I have seen (and photographed) Kodiak bears, which are just the same as coastal brown bears, only some of them live permanently, or most of the time, on the islands in the Kodiak archipelago. They tend to be bigger than Katmai brown bears. Due to the geography of those islands, they are tougher to photograph though. The one thing you certainly do not want to do is startle one of those bears! 😉

      Reply
  4. ChgoJohn

    What a great capture, Stefano! He sure does look like a teddy bear, posed and ready for sale. I must say, though, that would be one very frightening toy store. Can you imagine? 🙂

    Reply
  5. kbvollmarblog

    Dear Stefano,
    I suppose that these brown bears are dangerous and I find it remarkable that the most cuddely looking bears like the polar bear and those brown bears are that dangerous.
    With a big hug from sunny Norfolk
    Klausbernd and his happy Bookfayries who are back again

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Dear Klausbernd,

      In my experience there is a huge difference between brown bears and polar bears. Polar bears are among the biggest and meanest (as in hungriest of anything that moves) things alive. They do look beautiful and cuddly, but they can outrun any human any time and will not think about chasing one twice for a snack. Those are seriously dangerous and serious precautions must be taken to be in proximity to them and to photograph them safely.

      Coastal brown bears are different: as I said in response to an earlier comment, yes, they are big and powerful of course, but fortunately they get to see relatively few people and (unlike brown bears in more crowded National Parks) they tend not to associate people with food yet – plus in the summer they have an abundance of their favorite food anyway (salmon). So, as long as you don’t do anything stupid, they are aware of you and accept you as just another animal in the ecosystem, which is way cool. I and other photgraphers I traveled with have been very close to them several times without a single problem.

      Once there was this sow with a cub who was concerned about a couple of big males not far away from her and she actually walked around us with her cub so as to place us in between them and the two males for protection. They were so close I had to hastily change my lens to a much shorter one to continue photographing them! In a few weeks I will post a shot of that occasion! 🙂

      A big hug to you all,
      Stefano

      Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you so much, Laura! 🙂 I love bears too, any kind, color or size! 😀
      Thanks for the link to the video: it was awesome! You got to love when bears scratch their backs against a tree, but… four bears at once?!? That’s insane – and funny too! 🙂 Also, wow – two mountain lions went by. That’s an animal I would like to be able to photgraph in the wild, but they are pretty dangerous and I have not yet been able to figure out a way how to arrange it! 😉

      Reply
  6. Dina

    This beauty really does look like a huge teddy bear 🙂 , that’s a wonderful, truly splendid capture, Stefano!
    This is a precious image, when you shoot something like this, you know it’s all worthwhile.
    Big hug
    Dina (now finally back in Germany after weeks of travelling)

    Reply

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