Grizzly Daze~

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Glacier National Park is Blackfoot ancestral land. The Blackfoot people believe that grizzly bears can see into a human heart and read a person’s intentions. This is mama grizzly and her cub when we first encountered her on the trail and she went into high alert.

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Here is mama after she looked into our hearts, approved our intentions, and took one of several naps. We spent several hours watching mama and cub, and have encountered bears every day since, both in Glacier and Waterton National Parks.

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Here mama and cub are both relaxed enough to nurse in our presence!
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She knew we were here, and looked at us regularly. We respected her space and never moved close enough to provoke any anxiety.
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We watched her forage,

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turn over rocks, hunt for rodents,
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and fish.
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We watched baby bear scratch his back on a little pine tree,
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and we saw mama yell at him!
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This is mama bear’s home. She is as magnificent as her surroundings. Grizzly populations have been decimated in the wild. I have a lot more bear and other wildlife photos to share with you, but wifi out here is far less present than bears! This my first connectivity in days and it won’t last!
I miss you and your blogs, and send you cheers from the wonderful wild grizzlies who see into our human hearts and look to us for protection~

296 thoughts on “Grizzly Daze~

    1. This was our first bear encounter of the trip. We were about 60-100 yards from her at all times. She at times got closer to us while farting around, not vis versa. She was relaxed with us but we have learned a lot about respecting wild animal space over the years. She did charge, but not us. As we were leaving, a group of hikers came on the scene, I pointed her out to the hikers and they continued on towards her and she mock charged them, which means she charged, but called it off. It was a warning to the hikers who were not patient and respectful. She then hid the cub and hid herself behind a pine tree and I got a pic of her looking scared and hiding. I think grizzlies often attack when surprised, so I always sing my ass off on the trail. Usually this results in me seeing a grizzly butt as it runs away from my screeching serenade! Laughing…..

    1. Awwwww, I really felt an obligation here to convey the majesty of the bear and her home. The last photo is where she was. There are only an estimated 300 grizzlies left in Glacier which is a tragedy.

    1. Grizzlies are California’ s state bear. The largest grizzly shot in North America was shot at The Holler in the 1890’s. Now there are no more California grizzlies. It is horrible when you see what we have destroyed.

    1. We have seen multiple bears every day! It is incredible. The last time I remember seeing this many bears was when I was a kid in Yellowstone. The fires have driven them down the mountains.

    1. The rangers recommend 100 yards with bears and we try and stick to that. We are never closer than 50 yards, maybe 30 with a black bear, but that is the bear’s choice. We are super careful, so as much as one can take precautions to be safe, we are. There is always random chance, but you are safer with bears than in a crowded city or a car.

    1. Aren’t they the most freaking amazing animals! I couldn’t get over the power of the front legs, how they are hinged to swing, and the length of the claws. Amazing power that can be wiped out in a second by some fool with a gun or a bow.

  1. What an amazing experience to be so close and be respected for respecting her space – how humbling that must have been. Those claws of theirs however did seem a very “not so subtle” yet very bright, very good reminder to NOT invade their space! πŸ™‚

    1. It was a thrill of a life time for me! I couldn’t believe she let us watch her and the cub! I was humbled, blown away, and so was my husband. I simply couldn’t wait to post her. I want everyone to love and protect our so few remaining grizzlies. <3

    1. Yes, it was the penultimate natural high. There are only around 300 grizzlies in Glacier and it is a massive, massive place. So it was an incredible thrill. We are going to see coastal grizzlies next year in the Knight Inlet which we have done before, and where you are certain to see the salmon eating bears. But an inland mama grizzly and cub who let us watch her for hours in Glacier? Just, WOW!!!

      1. Wow! You are blessed to travel and see this, we are also for your sharing. God bless you, stay safe, and peace! πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to see more of your photos during your travels. πŸ™‚

  2. I hope you had an incredible lens to take those pictures. How about the guy who was killed by the mama bear. He took a picture of a bear running towards him and he couldn’t get the second one off before he was bear dinner… yikes

    1. Yeah, that is super spooky. I have 1200 mm equivalent zoom. Safe viewing lens! A person was killed in Yellowstone this year hiking alone. Last time we were in Yellowstone, three years ago, there were several maulings. Yellowstone bears in late fall can unnerve me. We go there next!! Woo Hoo!! Still you are safer in the wilderness then in a car on a freeway.

  3. Glacier was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. These pictures and your commentary are an amazing spectacle… My memory of wildlife in Glacier veers to the arcane. We were in the parking lot at the continental divide and got out of the car, only to turn the corner of an RV to hear a woman saying, “Here kitty kitty, here kitty kitty…”

    to a mountain goat. I think the goat utterly lacked the grizzly mama’s propensity for reading intentions, and i have to say we were equally baffled… πŸ™‚

    Michael

  4. Have you ever watched the movie The Grizzly Man about a real life grizzly bear enthusiast who after years of spending time getting close to grizzlies was attacked and killed with his girlfriend in their tent? I think we have to be very careful when we romanticize animals too much. I do love the pics though–they are beautiful creatures just as humans are–but there’s a dark side to all life on earth.

    1. Oh yes, Werner Von Herzog’s movie and Timothy Treadwwell’s book. Very familiar with both. You are correct. Grizzlies can be very lethal especially when people are foolish around them as Timothy sadly was, and then also there is plain bad luck, like being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Following the rules: hiking with people, making noise, carrying bear spray, observing viewing distances, monitoring bear sightings with the rangers, storing food properly, improves your odds. We follow the same basic rules in Africa and the Amazon, wherever the wild things are. I don’t romanticize bears, but I do also know people are much more lethal to bears, than bears are to people. People are also a lot more lethal to other people, than bears are. I was a psychotherapist and mental health director for 30 years. Unfortunately, I know about human darkness and the wonder of human compassion. I also don’t romanticize people. Thank you for the important cautionary note.

      1. For most of my life I DID romanticize animals and think that people were the problem, but people are a part of the ecosystem. We are just another animal or so many people want us to believe. If that’s so then we are just better survivors. (I believe differently). A fox came last winter and killed 16 of our chickens in a killing frenzy.We were told that sometimes foxes do this when they get so excited at the noise and ruckus being made by the chickens. The fox couldn’t carry all the chickens home or eat all of them. He took one or two and left the rest. I found dead frozen chickens for days. Cats play with their terrified prey for hours only to leave them at the door while they beg for canned cat food.

        I wrestle with our place in all of this. The dentist who killed the lion got more press than the many human killings happening at the same time and some Africans were asking what the fuss was all about. Life is tough isn’t it.

      2. Yes, confusing and perplexing trying to sort it all out. We have lots of coyotes and I have heard of the behavior you describe, but I also have learned about they have distinct personalities, some aggressive and others more passive. I don’t know the answers either, but I know we humans have free will and can choose to treat our fellow humans, animals and this planet with respect and compassion. I try to stay focused on this. These are important issues you are bringing up with no black and white answers. My thinking continues to evolve over time and experience.

  5. Cindy, I am amazed you were able to get that close to a mama and cub without it becoming aggressive and attacking. How close were you with your camera? We didn’t see a grizzly in Glacier NP, but did have a black bear run right across the road just a few centimeters from hitting our bumper in the park there as we drove though. It frightened us and the bear as it got on its hind legs in fright and ran. Scared us too. πŸ™‚ But, never saw another bear there or in Waterton NP but that was the first week June (2011) when we were there.

    1. These photos were telephoto,shot at around 60-100 yards or so. I don’t want to cuddle a grizzly bear, laughing! We follow full precautions on all trails, ie., grizzly spray, I sing loudly (excellent deterrant for all creatures), we never hike alone, we don’t carry food, we check trails with rangers. Although I want to see bears. I want to see them safely and at a distance, just like in Africa. We saw a black bear cub too like you did, that was frightened and came close to us, but he was not at all hostile, just scared.

      1. We took a trail there in GNP (don’t remember the name), but somehow got off the path and got lost. Very scary as I kept looking around every tree for grizzlies, etc. I bought a cool walking stick at the gift shop that came with a bell, and I sure used it plenty walking through those woods. It rained and was real cool at that time and the ‘Road to the Sun’ was closed due to late snows and icy conditions.

  6. Magnificent beings, these bears! And their home is beautiful too. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience, including the advice to sing loudly on the trail !

    1. Oh yes, I am in Canada, which means I am in heaven, taking photos, walking around upper Waterton Lake taking sunset photos, and considering buying a wooden bear (2 feet tall). Jim wants him for the foyer. Whenever I am in Canada, I wonder why I don’t live here. I am wondering this now……

    1. We have practically obliterated them and they are so incredible. I saw a t-shirt I should have bought Jim. It read, “Leave your Bow Inside, Go Outside: Glacier National Park.”

  7. Such awesome photos– I hope you had a really long lens because those bears looked to up close!! I was wonderful to get to see them in their magnificent setting. Beautiful all around.

  8. If they can see into my heart… IΒ΄m not getting anywhere near that beast, as beautiful as it is, IΒ΄ve seen to many documentaries where black bears attack humans and specially if itΒ΄s a mommy with a cub, youΒ΄re nuts ! to get so close. Change your name, or better yet I got a nickname for you
    Cindy “the dare devil” Knoke.

  9. Awww, Mama Grizzly is such a great judge of character! What a treat to be able to see them engaging in their activities! I hope that we get our acts together and protect them so that those of us who dream of observing nature as you are get such opportunities in the future. ~Lynn

  10. Freaking amazing Cindy!!! You are a brave woman. If I was in your place I would not have been able to hold my camera still.

    The fires here have pushed the wild life down from the mountains as well. We have bear “evidence” in our backyard.

    Have a wonderful trip. Can’t wait to see your photos of Canada. Cheers!

      1. I know! Thanks Cindy! 😊 I lived in so Cal. growing up and my dad was a fireman. He was always gone for weeks at a time fighting fires. Thankfully he was always safe. My heart aches for those who’ve lost loved ones and homes.

        Have a fun and safe journey!

  11. You are so lucky to sit among these great creatures. We used to interact in a similar fashion with black bear and moose in Maine, when we were especially lucky. They would come into our yard, knowing, as animals do, the safety of that quest. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I was reading here in Waterton Canada about a man who lived for decades among Russian grizzlies researching them. He hand rasied ten orphaned cubs. He emphasized the importance of mutual respect and coexistance. He lectured here in Waterton National Park and I missed him!

      1. Cool. I wrote a post on my website about this crazy guy who, along with his girlfriend, were mauled to death by grizzlies in Alaska after living amongst them for years. But he pushed the envelope. That respect, that dance needs to be felt and acknowledged at all times. For as relaxed as a wild animal may appear to human eyes, they remain ready to fight or flee, something we do well to remember when amongst them. Such a blessing. In case you’re interested: http://belajohnson.com/animal-tales-retold/ Aloha, Cindy.

        1. Yes, sweet Timothy Treadwell. I read his book and saw the Herzog movie. You are exactly right, he did push the envelope and the results were tragic for all concerned. There was a speaker here in Waterton National Park who studied Russian grizzlies for decades and raised ten orphaned cubs. I so wish I was here for his lecture. I know he emphasizes spatial respect and keen attention to body language, things I learned from psychotherapy! πŸ˜‰

          1. Exactly. And I do miss the variety of wildlife here that we enjoyed in the woods of Maine. Still, nowhere is perfect, and I had 34 years there. But we will be going to AK one day in the not too distant future.

  12. Wow wow wow what a beautiful soulful encounter, what magnificence, I can hardly find words for this. You are blessed. And the bears are blessed. And I am blessed to experience your encounter vicariously.
    Alison <3

  13. amidalife

    Amazing photos and experience. In an urban environment the wildlife are accustomed to humans; I’m surprised the mama bear was comfortable with humans in her environment.

    1. I suppose living in a National Park, where hunting is not allowed, may also have influenced her behavior, athough she did make a mock charge when another group of hikers came on the scene.

  14. Astounding photos! Tingling observations! Magnificent beast — those claws, the grizzled back, the sheer immensity. Really wonderful post, Cindy. Thanks so much for sharing this intimate and heart-felt visit.

  15. I have always felt that being allowed to enjoy the wilderness and all it has to offer is an incredible privilege Cindy and have encountered bears peacefully numerous times. Thanks for your beautiful photos. Your hear must have been pounding with joy (an a little nervousness) the whole time. –Curt

      1. Indeed it is. I watched a grizzly once up in remote British Columbia that was trying to catch a marmot. It was amazing how much dirt flew. But what was humorous about it was the marmot had different entrances. The grizzly would be tearing into a hole when the marmot would pop out of another one and whistle. The grizzly would then charge the new site. I wondered at the time, if the marmot was distracting the grizzly from babies. –Curt

        1. Oh how fascinating and hilarious! I was amused watchng the grizzlies go after rodents too. We think of them taking down elk and moose for lunch, but mostly they eat plants and rodents. πŸ˜‰

  16. I thought that mountain range looked familiar. I have similar photos. When I was there I was alone and was deterred by the “beware of grizzly” signs so my hiking was very limited. How far away were you from the bears?

    1. I was using my zoom lens, not full zoom, but close. I was in safe viewing distance. I agree with your decision, I would never walk alone in Glacier, Waterton or Yellowstone where we headed now.

      1. I love Yellowstone, been twice, I’d go every year but too far to drive. I must be crazy, I was never afraid to hike alone there, guess I never saw the signs for bears

        Have a wonderful time, can’t wait to see your photos

      2. That is is funny, because I am more timid in Yellowstone, I remember seeing hordes of bears there as a kid and every time we go, we have sightings on trails, but I keep going back because Yellowstone is my favorite park because of the density of wild animals.

  17. Great shots – as usual. In my country we are taught that grizzly bears are very dangerous and you should never come close to one if your life is dear to you. These shots are marvellous, and I do trust you know what you are doing. Thank you for posting about what most of us will never see!

    1. I have 1200 mm equivalent telephoto lens so I did not get too close. You are very correct, one should never seek close contact with wild grizzlies! Glad you enjoyed the photos and cheers to you~

  18. Dear Cindy, what a magnificent post! Gorgeous shots of the bears. Now I have read many comments and your answers; with a 1200 lens I suppose you were hiking(?) at a safe distance. Are there any precautions taken, beside signs that recommend you stay away from a area or to make a detour? Where you hiking or driving around in the National Park by car, or maybe both? This is definitely a place I’d love to visit. Thanks for a wonderful post.
    Love from the Four of us,
    Dina

    1. Yes, we encountered these grizzly bears while hiking in Glacier National Park. We encountered bears every day in Glacier and Waterton National Parks, both while hiking and while driving. National Park guidelines recommend that grizzly bears be viewed from 100 yards, and other wildlife from 50 – 25 yards. Glacier posts detailed safe viewing distances per species at the entrances of the park. While hiking in grizzly country it is critical to:
      hike in groups, not alone;
      carry high capisin content bear spray
      make noise, sing, talk loudly, clap, (most all bear attacks, which are rare, occur when a person surprises a bear on a trail)
      avoid carrying any food for day hikes on isolated trails, or pack it in air tight containers (this is my personal practice)
      if you surprise a bear, back up slowly and talk gently
      respect posted warnings about closed trails due to bear activity.
      Bears generally don’t care about people and don’t see us as prey, if you don’t surprise or scare them. Usually when we encounter bears, they are moving away from my singing!! πŸ˜‰ Signs of a scared bear include lowered head, flattened ears, huffing, head swaying and teeth clacking. An angry bear will charge, often a mock charge, like an elephant or rhino, to scare you off.
      All the bears we have seen so far have been relaxed with us.
      However, it is important to state, this mama and cub, did mock charge a group of hikers with a dog, who approached her too closely after she had hung out with us at a safe viewing distance for a long time.
      So it is common sense, like in Africa. These are wild powerful animals, respect their space and watch their body language, and act accordingly. Bear attacks are very rare. People are more dangerous. That said, a man was killed in Yellowstone this season by a bear on a well traveled trail. He was alone and had no bear spray and I bet he hiked silently.
      We head now to Yellowstone, grizzlies in Yellowstone in late fall are unnerving to me. Hiking in bear country is taking a chance, but driving to bear country on human roads with human drivers scares me more. I get people’s fear, if someone is super scared of bears, they probably would not like hiking in Glacier, Waterton or Yellowstone.
      You will love it Dina and I highly recommend you visit. Doing all three parks in the fall is hard to top. We are all going to die anyway, I would rather live fully before I do! <3

    1. Oh I would love to see that! Check out this youtube video I saw this summer. This mom was home with her three little kids while this bear family decided to make use of her pool. Be sure and listen to the version where you hear the human mama’s conversation with her kids as they watch the bear family trash the pool. I was so impressed with this human mom’s calmness and tolerance of her yard getting trashed.
      Actually, I was impressed with the bear mama too, she had five cubs to cool off!! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

    1. This is the best way anyone has phrased this question and the answer is, yes we were. It would be much scarier to encounter a grizzly by suprise at close range! I hope this never happens.

  19. Wow Cindy. What a wonderful experience. I’ve gotten near, but had the mama look, sniff and run! But I was surrounded by a crowd which made it a zoo! How delightful that they trusted and accepted your presence. blessings, Brad

  20. Amazing photos, Cindy! To encounter a bear in its natural habitat is a very special experience, and we have been blessed three times. Not grizzly bears though, just common Swedish brown bears. As you say, let the bear know you are around by singing and making noises. Bears are rarely dangerous to humans unless you are a threat to its food, or coming between mother and cub. Most attacs seem to happen to hunters with a loose dog.
    Take care and enjoy the rest of your hike!
    /Meggie

  21. I can barely remember when I saw my first bear crossing a bare rocky ledge that was barely wide enough. That bear was bearing a bone in its teeth. I can’t bear to go on with this tale as it bares my fear of bears. Enjoy Yellowstone, Cuz! πŸ™‚ Hugs!

  22. Boy, what a sight it must have been to see Mama grizzly and her cub…and fortunately you have the best of hearts so I bet you could have gone up and petted the baby cub πŸ™‚ Wonderful and thrilling shots…lucky, lucky you πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks much Randall. Such an amazing experience on so many levels. Truly magnificent creatures. Heartbreaking to consider that so many people want to kill them when they see them. There are only approximately 300 grizzlies left in Glacier.

    1. You are very kind and I am so pleased you appreciate these incredible animals. 300 is not enough and Yellowstone’s grizzlies are under threat because bark beetles are destroying the forest they depend upon.

  23. Look into our hearts indeed Cindy. You said it all. Animals can sense when we mean them danger or are trying to invade their space. They felt no threat from you and allowed you to share their space. And look what you were able to get. How beautiful. Mama and her cub in their every day life. Love these pics Cindy, sharing them now!!! πŸ˜‰ xoxoxo

    1. Yes, you are so right about animals ability to read people. We all know this about dogs and horses, but it is even more striking with wild animals and wild birds. One thing I repeatedly notice about wild animals is that by the time I find them with my telephoto lens, they are already looking directly at me. They know I am there before I do!
      Thank you so much for your wonderful friendship and be well both of you~ <3 <3

  24. You are a brave wilderness scout Cindy. Holy cr–ap!! Especially with cub in tow. She’s really something special to see and witness candidly in the wild. Bravo! Our friends have a home in Valemont BC. It’s not to far from Jasper. They regularly see bears and often walk with spray and bells. Roy says he doesn’t worry about outrunning a bear, he only has to outrun Karen, ha! He says it every time we hike, but we still laugh. I think I could outrun Karen, so I feel safe too LOL.

    1. How can you tell grizzly poop from black bear poop? Grizzly poop is full of bear bells and spray!! Laughing….. My bad. Actually mama and mini-me were the thrill of the trip and I am going to post more photos of them both. They probably had just eaten because they didn’t once look at us like lunch! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

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  26. The looking into one’s heart seems like a great ability of animals in general, Cindy. But this mama bear looked in this series of photos and your other post, right at your camera, assessing you through your eyes. Do you feel that we learn about this through Native American culture, too?

    1. I suspect Native Americans knew a lot more about wildlife in general than the while settlers. So much of their beliefs and values incorporated the wildlife they lived among. They imitated bird and wild life calls, read tracks, knew about animal behavior. They often named themselves after wild animals, and saw animals as spritual beings. I knew when I read about the Blackfoot’s belief about bears that they knew more than I did, and then amazingly, it seemed to come to pass. The bear accepted my husband and I the whole time we were there. She looked at me a lot and I have the photos to prove it. When, the other people came with the dog, she charged. They were disrespectful of her space, and body language, and maybe she saw that in their hearts. It’s interesting isn’t it. I don’t pretend to “know” anything. I just find some things, like this, amazing.

  27. Jealous! Being able to see those bears up close and personal would be so awesome and the landscape is equally spectacular. I also had a funny thought about the difference with photographing grizzly’s in the wild compared to the sleepy koala bear. My niece gets koalas in her backyard but all I’ve seen is their backsides.

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