The grizzly bear is a massive animal with humped shoulders and an elevated forehead that contributes to a somewhat concave profile. The fur is brownish to buff, and the hairs are usually silver- or pale-tipped, giving the grizzled effect for which the bear is named.
Even though they are a member of the carnivore order, grizzlies are omnivorous animals, feeding on berries, plant roots and shoots in addition to small mammals, fish, calves of many hoofed animals, and carrion. Food is often cached in shallow holes, and grizzlies dig readily and vigorously in search of rodents. Each spring the bear marks the boundary of its territory by rubbing trees, scratching bark, or even biting large pieces from the trunks of trees. During late summer and autumn, grizzlies accumulate large amounts of fat and then retire to dens in winter. Cubs, most often twins, are usually born in January or February after about six to eight months of gestation.
Marcia and I, along with a couple of friends, enjoyed a week in early July of 2014 watching and photographing brown bears (coastal grizzlies) feeding on the sockeye salmon run in Katmai National Park, Alaska. A researcher studying the bears said she’d identified 72 different bears not counting cubs so far that season. This is remarkable considering that except for sows with cubs and mating pairs, brown bears are solitary.
They found the bears employed a variety of fishing techniques including snorkeling (floating downstream with head under water), trying to run them down in shallow water and perching above the falls in key locations and letting the salmon jump into their mouths as the fish tried to get above the falls. Smaller bears and females with cubs simply waited downstream as the skinless carcasses drifted with the current after large boars consumed the fat-laden skin and discarded the rest.
Much like a dog, the bear often shook their heads after being submerged. That is the action I wanted to capture in "Portraits in Gray – Grizzly”.