Sparrow vs Grizzly Bear…who wins?

I don’t know about this fight. I think I will give it to the sparrow. I saw this griz in Yellowstone N.P. on the road between Norris and Mammoth this summer.

Absolutely hilarious action broke out, while trying to learn my new camera. This lil sparrow  (not totally sure the type of bird) came out of nowhere and started attacking this griz, while he was peacefully grazing along the river.

The sparrow successfully moved him away from – a possible nest?…as the griz moved back and over the hills in a sort of defeatist gait.

(I have many more, totally blurry photographs, but they were so terrible because my manual focus was in play, and it was dusk – turning into a pitch black evening). But what a show!

awww no, go away!

What a tree hugger!

The first black bear I saw this summer decided to give a nice welcome show by shimmying up a tree and picking off a few bugs to snack on. Great way to enter Yellowstone National Park!

Absolutely idiodic

Watch this video.

It’s a “what not to do when encountering wildlife” video.

Something that I have witnessed, but not to such a degree.

And, what? The father laughs at the end? Don’t worry, Yellowstone is just a circus. You won’t ACTUALLY feel it when the bison gores you and seriously injures or kills your child. THAT IS SARCASTIC by the way.

It’s unbelievable. A few years ago, a child was killed by a bison when the father thought it was an a-ok idea to place his kid on the bison’s back for a good point-and-shoot picture.

Listen to the rangers, the pamphlets, and the signs: STAY 25 YARDS AWAY FROM BISON.

I just talked (rationally) about this a few days ago. Sorry, but this was absolutely IDIOTIC!

A background: my wildlife photography practice.

One of my readers pointed out something very important in my last post.

I should have made this preamble before I began posting photos that I took of ‘cute little teddy bears’ from my summer adventures of camping in various Canadian and US national parks.

It is very dangerous to approach ANY wildlife. As you will see on many signs around the park you are in, it is illegal to feed the wildlife and highly recommended (and the law in a few parks) to stay at least 100 yards away from a bear, wolf, cougar (and other large predators) and 25 yards from all other wildlife when outside of your car.

This summer, and the two previous summers, I enjoyed months of wildlife photography, but enjoyed it in a safe and responsible manner (aka zoom lens, inside my car)

If you were planning on hittin’ the road and exploring a national park near (or far) from you – make friends with park rangers as they often know how to handle situations when an animal is near. Listen to them – they know (usually). Visitor Centers are also key if you are new to a park. It’s wise to find out what the rules and regulations are and how you stay safe and responsible in a territory where bears, bison, elk, etc. frequent.

If you leave any food or beverage around your campsite unsupervised and a bear is exposed to this food, this bear will be eradicated and the blood of this bear will be on your hands. This actually happened in our camp area this summer (don’t worry: we had the human culprits fined before the bear was able to grab any food).

Given the concern of habituating bears and the omni-present reality that there will be that one person who crosses the line, many have argued that if you see a bear in a national park, you should not stop to watch it or take a photograph, knowing that it will lead to a bear jam. And while I understand this argument, there is an important counterpoint.

Bears – and other indicator species – need large, roadless wilderness in order to survive. While many of these spaces exist in the world, places like Yellowstone and Banff are not and never will be a roadless wilderness. In fact, though the perception is that these wild spaces exist to conserve wildlife, the reality is they were created almost always for the benefit of the people. It’s a fact we have to work with. Many national parks are trying to re-wild their front and back country and put a heightened focus on animal conservation. This is admirable. But roadways and trails (and, frustratingly, towns and golf courses and ski resorts) are here to stay. As a result, this imperfect version of protected wilderness needs to strike a fine balance between animal needs and the bigger picture of helping people foster a love for nature and conservation.

Seeing bears in the wild is a remarkable experience and positive bear (and wildlife) encounters are critical to creating a culture that appreciates and supports conservation. It’s a proven fact that people who have first-hand experience with a region or a specific animal are more likely to believe in its protection. So while most of us can appreciate why many parks discourage bear watching, in my opinion, it’s a futile fight and a misguided one to boot.

Parks like Banff and Yellowstone will never be the kind of wilderness required to maintain functioning populations of large carnivores; however, in order to create the political will to establish such spaces, these parks can assist conservation through land protection, yes, but also can play a more critical role in sparking a love in people for wilderness.

I am very lucky myself that my boyfriend studies bear behaviour, has been trained by world renowned bear biologists and bear guides and has had experience of over 20 years photographing and researching not only bears, but many other types of wildlife all across North America. We should all be so lucky to have a guide such as him. But for many people, their ‘guide’ will be rangers and the difference between a good ranger and a bad ranger is stark.

We need parks and rangers to champion policies and people that use wildlife jams as a manageable tool to provide people with first-hand education and positive experiences (and photos) to take home and share with their social networks. Yes, there will be times when a wildlife jam is inappropriate (impact on the animal, impact on traffic, people safety, etc.) and a good ranger knows the difference between a bad jam that can’t happen and a good jam that is safe. And by educating people at jams – and, in a sense, deputizing them to help look-out for animals and people at jams without rangers – creates the conditions for positive experiences and, critically, an environmentally conscious populous.

Yellowstone’s wolf project is a great example of how a park’s policy has led to this difficult balance being achieved and rangers like Yellowstone’s John Kerr are the gold standard in conservation law enforcement.

At the other end of the spectrum (and this is a blog for another day) Kananaskis Country – and their front line conservation officers – are the sad example of what not to do. Anger, intimidation and policy making on the fly is no way to handle people, bears or achieve the balancing act of necessary co-existence.

So I thank my reader for reminding me to write this important back-story that I failed to provide the first time round and I hope it helps provide food-for-thought for others who are planning on watching wildlife in national parks. Guidelines exist for a reason and all animals should be respected and given their space. But we also need parks to help people find inspiration from nature and watching/photographing wildlife is a necessary evil to help create real parks that place animals first. It’s a balance, but Yellowstone and Jasper proves it is possible, whereas Kananaskis and Grand Teton remind us work remains to find a better way.

Please read my previous post on how to deal when encountering an aggressive bear. It’s very rare, and if you do read about a bear attack, it’s more than likely the human did not follow the appropriate protocol in an area with bears.

A few links to help you be safe and a responsible guest:

Yellowstone National Park – Your Safety in Bear Country

Jasper National Park – Bear Management

Top 4 hikes a la summer- #4 Specimen Ridge, Yellowstone

Welcome to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. One of my favorite areas in this vast park.

I know I mentioned earlier that I would talk about my top 3 hikes this summer, but I just had to include my #4 pick.

At a starting elevation of 8864 feet (end 9600 feet), it’s very surprising if you happen to see anyone else on the trail (aside from a herd of pronghorn).

As the name states, it is one of the ridges of Amethyst Mountain, starting just past the Yellowstone River.  And you basically have this place to yourself. Not many people set out to hike this trail, that, as we discovered, had many paths.

And, as the name also states, you may see some fine specimen on this trail, including: pronghorn, grizzly bear, elk, bison, and rarely, moose.

Which path to take? Umm, we decided uphill was the way to go – the steeper, the better.

What my boyfriend and I found amazing about this hike, aside from the lack of people on the trail, was the glimpse we got of Yellowstone ‘behind the scenes’.

We could see, to our right, the Tower Falls area. A place where we spent countless hours watching two sets of black bears with cubs. We had no idea how enormous the area was behind the ridge. Imagine all the wildlife we would be able to spot if we could have seen into this area!! It just blew my mind.

To our left, we could see the entrance to the Lamar Valley, and again, our mouths were dropped at the areas we would never have be able to see from the road.

Difficulty? I would say moderate. It’s a high elevation hike, little shade, and steep hills. Make sure you have good hiking boots, or you might end up downhill skiing as I did on the way back.

Home, aka Toronto

BAM!

I am back to being a city girl once again. The place fueled by road rage, bright lights in tall towers, sounds of multiple sirens flying across the streets, and smoggy layers of air.

But I still love it.

Totally missing nature already though. And work was quite a culture shock today (and yesterday when I drove in). I couldn’t quite get used to all the people around, the makeup I had to apply, and I just couldn’t seem to figure out how to use a blow-dryer.

This has been on my mind all day at work:

Jasper, Alberta

Stay tuned for #3 from my top 3 hikes this summer! Hint – hellooooo Wyoming!

R.I.P. Sir Elk

It’s been such a wonderful summer.

So many fabulous wildlife adventures and photographs taken, a ‘new’ camera inherited (story to come soon), and countless amazing meals eaten along the beaten trail.

I am so sad that it is coming all to an end…BUT not just yet.

There is this brief hiatus in Vancouver babysitting my boyfriend’s parents dog while they are off on an amazing African adventure. After that stop, we are on the road again.

This time, it’s not through the states, but through the quirky Trans Canada Highway en route back to Toronto. Instead of the 2 loooooong driving days to Yellowstone from Toronto, we are taking 9 – 10 days to slowly working our way back across Canada via some interesting Canadian historical sites (eg. The last spike, the burial ground of Louis Riel…).

BUT I must share a very brief and very sad short story with you that has been casting a gloomy cloud over my head, despite a very sunny and warm Vancouver, and a very excitable and heart warming dog to babysit.

There I was in Jasper, Alberta among a huge crowd of people photographing one of three amazing bull elks with crazy racks that I have now known for three years. Ps, a side note – I’ve been learning all the innate wildlife talk – it could have gotten more technical than that 🙂 more technical than ‘crazy racks’.

These elk were so docile and accommodating to the throngs of people, young and old…in their faces snapping off photos with flash, yelling, running in front of them, stalking them, attempting to feed them…you name it. I was impressed, yet again this summer, and so happy to see these stunning elk so healthy after three years running.

The morning we were set to leave Jasper, just 3 days ago, we were stopped to photograph a black bear with one cub on the Icefields Parkway when a motorcycle stopped beside us and gave my boyfriend some very saddening news.

This one guy from the three bull elks (the smaller one as he is known) had just been hit and killed by a transport truck on the Yellowhead Highway where we always see him.

It was heartbreaking and so damn frustrating and it has kept me heavy hearted ever since I heard the news.

R.I.P.

In Yellowstone!!!

It will be 3 weeks tomorrow, and I am loving it!

So much to describe here, but my internet time is quite limited, so I’ll show you a pic from the Specimen Ridge hike in Lamar Valley.

WHAT A VIEW!

Fare thee well

A great blogger friend of mine once told me not to apologize for leaving, so I will just say – farewell, and see you soon!

I shall post when I have internet access again this summer.

But do not fret, my sister and my friend will be here to keep you company once in a while as well.

See you all in August!! Happy travels!

Photos of the Day – The White Wolf Waits for Wistfully Wandering to Wind Up There

Ohhh too much… but the title is staying.

As I bounce off my seat itching to get on the road to Yellowstone, I was reminiscing about some of the great wildlife encounters I experienced there last summer.

Here are some of my favs:

First wildlife sighting in Teton – Elk on alert!

Grizzy 399 and 2 of her 3 cubs she had last year. Down to none apparently now 😦 although the rumour is they still survive – 1 with the grizzly 610, and 2 are lost, but well.

Awww Sedgehog (I don’t come up with these names 🙂 in Sedge Bay, Yellowstone

The white wolf…hence the cringe worthy title of the post.

Mr/s. Marmot in Sheepeaters, Yellowstone

The lone bison walks the line

I could keep going and going, but I will stop at my favorites in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I also saw a large variety of wildlife in the Canadian Rockies, including big horned sheep, mountain goats, a cougar (such a rare and amazing sight!), elk with huge racks, and a ton of foxes, coyotes and a brief glimpse of black wolves.

CAN’T WAIT!