Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Bluff-Charged by a bear!

16 Comments

Mom Bear and cubsBack to finishing up our posts about last summer’s Alaskan adventures!  In our last post we decided to wait for moderated weather before heading further west along the Alaska Peninsula.  The forecast predicted easing conditions in the afternoon of August 24, so we decided to watch bears from our dinghy again in the morning before leaving.  A little more exciting this time!

Everything went well at first: we sat quietly in the dinghy watching a mother and cubs.  The tide was flooding and pulling us slowly towards one part of the stream where the bears fish but away from the bear family, which was congregated on another part of the delta.  Unbeknownst to us a lone bear was fishing upstream, behind a clump of grass.  We couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see us until he came out into mid-stream.  He’d just caught a fish.  Then he saw us and charged!Charging bear

 

My adrenaline soared, but my thinking brain told me it was a bluff charge, that the bear was defending his food source from a surprise threat.  The best reaction is to appear calm and non-threatening and back away.  Of course this kind of defensive behavior can certainly escalate, and all my instincts and adrenaline were pumping me with fear.  Seth was in the stern with the camera and I had the oars, so I pulled away with strokes that were probably not as smooth and calm as they should have been!  Seth kept capturing images the whole time!

Charging bear-2

The bear stopped charging once we in the dinghy were far enough away, thank God! You can still see his anger in this shot, though, with his ears back.

Fortunately the bear did stop after a few huge, fast strides.  Either it was in fact a bluff charge or he decided we had gotten far enough away from him and his catch.  He turned towards the bank and ambled into the grass to pull apart his salmon.  He didn’t look at us again.  Nonetheless it was the scariest moment of the voyage!!

Here the bear is turning away, satisfied that we're not a threat to his food

Here the bear is turning away, satisfied that we’re not a threat to his food

Our big mistake was not to have made a more careful reconnaissance of the area before settling down to watch one group.  And then getting absorbed in observing one set of animals instead of keeping a constant look-out for others.  Rule No. 1 with top predators is not to startle them!  I’m not sure why we didn’t follow our usual practice of keeping a good look-out—maybe our minds were on the forthcoming passage, which we knew was going to be difficult—but obviously we never forgot again!

Author: Ellen

Circumnavigator, Arctic voyager, writer/photographer

16 thoughts on “Bluff-Charged by a bear!

  1. I once had a black bear walk out of the trees and right out in front of me on a trail. We were maybe six fee from each other. My wife was behind me and she took off running. I took off running too. I know, I know, that is the last thing you want to do, but try telling that to someone who just had a 300 pound bear walk out of the trees right in front of them.

    The bear just sauntered off in the trees, paying us no attention.

    That is a cool story and experience you have there – luckily the bear didn’t keep going, but that must have been terrifying.

    • Wow! That is a crazy story! Glad you guys were okay and the bear ignored you! It is super hard to remember to do “the right thing” when it really comes down to it. I know there was some definite splashing coming from my oars…. So glad the bear decided to stop!!

  2. How exciting to be this close up to bears, thought this was probably a bit too close for comfort:) Glad I found your blog, looking forward to reading more:)
    xo xo Inger

  3. Pingback: Weather-bound in bear country | Gone Floatabout

  4. Wow! That would get my adrenaline pumping too. So cool to hear you guys have been adventuring for so many years now. Very inspirational. Great photos and enjoy the journey.
    Happy voyages from a Zeal friend.
    -jeff

    • Thanks, Jeff! We feel very lucky to have been able to have so many adventures and see so many incredible places. Enjoy your journeys too! And keep up the fantastic photography!
      -Ellen

  5. scary stuff! Still you managed to get some excellent photos and a great story too!

  6. My Mother, who grew up in the UP of Michigan, has many bear stories. All of them ended well, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she survived any of them to get old enough to have me. Everything from Grizzlies that chased the car to black bears that decided they wanted the berries she was picking. I group Bears right up there with sharks in the category of animals you do not want to play around with

  7. OMG guys, how scary would it have been! Great shots Seth! There would have been some manic rowing and a wee bit of swearing coming out of that dinghy😀

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