|Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska|
Accessible only by sea plane, Katmai National Park is located on the Alaska Peninsula and is the location depicted in the Warner Herzog film, Grizzly Man, about the death of bear activist, Timothy Treadwell. Having a fair amount of respect for Brown Bears/Grizzly bears (read “fear of”), I originally cringed at the site of Timothy Treadwell meandering amongst these bears and never did I imagine I would ever willingly find myself in a similar environment. However, having traveled there with an experienced, local guide, I now understand what he was able to do. The short of it is that, when food is readily available, these bears prove much more tolerant of both other bears and people and they are of a completely different frame of mind than their kin farther inland. They’re also intimidated by groups of people, so there’s that, as well. However, I’ve also gone back before the salmon runs with a much smaller group and experienced the same feeling of mutual respect/ambivalence so I think there’s also a unique habituation going on. The mothers even seem extra comfortable around people because they’ve learned that the large males stay away. Needless to say, I highly recommend not traveling there without a guide unless you really know what you are doing. There’s a great deal of nuanced bear-presence strategy needed and this location necessitates different behavior than other locations.
Anyway… I had originally planned on shooting from iconic Brookes Falls, the protected platform operated by the National Park Service, but my travel timing didn’t align with the Salmon run at that location and necessitated heading into the backcountry. This entailed flying into a very small lake and a hike over to the spawning grounds. The extra travel did not disappoint. Though cognizant of our presence the entire time (demonstrated by frequent looks), never did I feel endangered or threatened in any way, again- even amongst a mother with cubs.
Moraine Creek, Katmai National Park
There are several guide companies that operate out of Homer, a fishing village at the far end of the Katmai Peninsula, about 4 hours west of Anchorage. Unless staying at the cabins at Brookes Falls or camping in the park, you’ll want to use Homer as your base camp for day trips across the channel to Katmai. There are several motels and camping sites available here, though be warned that Homer is a major destination for Alaskans on holiday weekends for partying and fishing, so book early at those times.
Bald Mountain Air Service Inc.
P.O. Box 3134
Homer, AK 99603
The bear close-ups were taken with a Canon L-Series 100-400mm zoom