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A Beary Good Time at Anan Creek

09-17-2012

By Marcy Kober, expedition leader, Wilderness Adventurer

We traveled for about an hour by small boat to Anan Creek Wildlife, forest-filled landscapes becoming the backdrop to the beginning of our adventure. Cruising through the waters we anticipated the bears we would encounter and have the opportunity to observe in their natural habitat.

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Crew of the Wilderness Adventurer observing bears at Anan Creek Wildlife. Left to right: Jessica Williams (Deckhand), Manuel Hernandez (Steward), Jenny Erickson (Guide), Troy Richardson (Assistant Engineer), Heather Rehmeier (Lead Steward) and Gerry Jimenez (Steward)

We arrived at Anan Creek Wildlife, literally stepping off the boat onto the banks of the shoreline. The air was filled with excitement. We were now in bear country. Our guide instructed us in what to do to maximize our safety. The trail lay out in front of us, and we were off to the observation deck which overlooked a river crossing.

Hiking through the terrain we were careful to stay in close watch of each other. We were informed that if a bear happens to come on by, our strength in numbers would be our greatest defense. While we encountered some juvenile bald eagles, seagulls, and even some dismembered fish parts along the way, we unfortunately did not run into a bear on the trail.

After some time of walking through the forest, we finally arrived at our destination. The observation deck was perched on a hill top which gave us the perfect view point of the bears across the river. Within five minutes of checking out the observation deck, a young black bear was spotted at the water's edge hunting for salmon. We hurried down the stairs that led to a lower level of deck that was literally 30 feet away from the black bear.

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A black bear enjoys freshly caught salmon while laying on a fallen tree

The bear sat on the rocks searching for some unlucky salmon to catch with its paws. We watched and waited, and his persistence paid off. He finally caught a fish! He retreated into one of the caverns created by boulders along the river. It was such an incredible experience to be able to view such a creature so close up. Our luck paid off, and later in the day we saw some brown bears with cubs and a couple more black bears. The river was inhabited by a large number of salmon swimming upstream.

Right before leaving, we had the rare opportunity to witness a cunning black female bear outwit a black male bear. The female approached the river's edge where the male was already attentively waiting for fish to swim his way. She came over in what seemed to be some sort of mating gesture, trying to get his attention. The male became slightly aggressive and chased her off, though she kept returning. Eventually, the male gave up and allowed the female to share its spot on the river. As soon as the bear let its guard down, the female saw her opportunity and fished out a salmon! She quickly ran off with it and scurried into the forest to enjoy her catch.

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A female black bear (on the right) catches a fish while a male black bear (on the left) witnesses his missed opportunity

Anan Creek Wildlife was an incredible environment filled to the brim with the creatures of Alaska!



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