Thursday, 27 October 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 23: Cougar

I was so so close to seeing my first Cougar this evening.

Tonight's bike ride was exciting and a little scary at the same time. The bike ride started off as usual with a quick stop at the creek to see how the salmon are doing and to see if a bear might show up. I heard a lot of dogs barking up on the hill behind some homes not far from the creek so I knew a beer must be in the area. It was cold this evening so after a short while I gave up waiting because it was also getting dark and I had a fair ride home ahead of me. Just before I left the creek I got talking to a local who said that the local cougar has been spotted by four people earlier that day very close to a young deer. I did think for a second that maybe heading that way at dusk might not be such a good idea but curiosity led me down the trail.
I peddled pretty quickly passed the field where it had been spotted glancing every now and again behind be and into the field. For some reason Cougars don't usually attack adults but they have a thing for cyclist. Maybe they get a kick out of pouncing on a moving target rather than someone walking.

Anyway once I got passed the area I noticed some wet paw prints along the trail and stopped for a few minutes to check them out. It was then I saw some fairly fresh Cougar scat and a series of wet paw prints heading along the trail, see below. The scat and paw prints were identified using "The Canadian Rockies Guide to Wildlife Watching by Michael Kerr". A book I thoroughly recommend to any keen wildlife spotter.

I decided not to hang around for long and took these quick snaps on my iPhone to document the sighting.

This was the exciting part of my ride. The nest is well, not so fun. About 50 meters or so along the trail after seeing the prints and scat my front tire went completely flat. I must have rode over some thorns. The tire went down so quickly that I nearly fell off my bike. Well you can imagine I wasn't too thrilled getting a puncture so close to the cougar tracks and also I was about an hour walk from home and it was already late and not far being very dark. The above photos were lightened hence the noise levels.

I decided I best call a friend and start having a loud conversation as to let any hungry critters know I am in the area and hopefully scare them off. 

It was a long lonely walk home and I fought pretty hard to not spook myself. I had a few moments when I saw dark shadows along the trail because as you all know from following my blog it is also black bear country.

Anyhow I made it home safely in one piece, tired and cold. Now I am just annoyed I have a flat to deal with.

Still it was very exciting nearly seeing such an elusive predator and hopefully one day I get to see it from a safe distance.

I have a website coming in the new year so stay posted.
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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 22: The one that got away

I spent the weekend hanging around in the cold by the local creek waiting for some action to photograph. My imagination was full of images of black bears feeding on the salmon in the dense early morning and hawks on the shore line scavenging the left overs. Unfortunately those images will remain in my head for the time being. You would think the place would be full of fishing bears but not today. It wasn't until about 6pm that a bear decided to show up but by that time the light was long gone. I wasn't going to go home empty handed so I decided to see what I could do given the circumstances. This is the result from pushing the 7D and 70-200mm F2.8 IS combo....

Techs: 200MM @ F2.8// 1/100// ISO2000//
  Canon 7D with 70-200mm F2.8 IS

Image © Jamie Douglas|Photography 2011

The bear spent a few moments eyeing me up before casually making his way down the opposite river bank. I took this as my cue to retreat from the river bed and watch him fish from the top of the bank. He was a bad fisherman and certainly needs to work on his technique. 

While I was waiting for action a number of folks came by and stopped for a chat. I was lucky to have the opportunity to meet the owner of the local fish hatchery who got me up to speed on salmon. The creek is full of Chum Salmon at the moment and the Coho run will be happening shortly. Before meeting this gentleman I wasn't sure what species of salmon I was looking at.

The next guy that showed up wasn't so informative. He proceeded to tell me that the 70-200mm is too short blah blah blah for wildlife photography and the 400mm F5.6 is too slow blah blah blah. Now and again you encounter an opinionated bore or two.  The proof is in the pudding if you ask me. If the 400mm was too slow for wildlife then how would I get an image like this handholding the lens on a wet cloudy day::// ? Not to blow my own horn :)

Before I go, here is a Chum Salmon making his way up the creek. It is truly amazing watching the sheer strength and determination of each fish propel themselves up stream.

See some of my Black Bear photos in larger res here:

I have a website coming in the new year so stay posted.

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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 21: Are you full yet?

It certainly looks like the local bears have well and truly stuffed themselves with the local berry crop this summer. This bear is a prime example of a healthy bear that has begun his pre hibernation binge in preperation for winter. The bear wobbled as it walked amongst the berry bushes.

Did you know: Towards the end of summer and early fall black bears go through a binge period called, hyperphagia where they will gain up to one third of their normal body weight. The black bear will feed for up to 20 hours a day and not worry about any other activites besides eating.

Coming up next: Bear goes fishing

I have been busy this week searching for bears catching salmon in the local rivers so stayed tuned. I had a encounter this evening and I hope to have some more luck over the weekend. See you again soon.

For more information on Black Bears visit: