Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind

This past weekend Joan and I spent in Blackwell Pa which is in the center of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. Jim Jr and Joyce and Joan's mother and my mother joined us for the weekend.  The mountainous area between Blackwell and English Center Pa is rich in scenery and wildlife.  It is a very good area to find Black Bears in the wild.  On Thursday evening Jim Jr, Joyce and I saw a number of deer and we had the fortune of having two black bears fairly close to us.   The sow and cub did not seem frightened by our presence and we were able to take a number of photographs before they ambled off through the Laurel (which was in full bloom and was beautiful-a good subject for a future post).

Friday night was still good for bears as we saw 7 different bears but all of them were skittish and did not present photo opportunities.  Saturday evening started the same way.  We saw a sow and cub about 60 yards into a swampy, open area, but they were busy tearing apart a log and it was a dark area so we did not get pictures of them, but still enjoyed them.  We then saw a lone yearling cub that was rather "frisky" and was frolicking in the woods.  About an hour later we saw a mother bear and three cubs in the lawn of a camp and it appeared they had been fed by the camp owner and we decided not to photograph them. 
We were about ready to head back to the cabin in Blackwell when I spotted a sow with two yearling cubs in the laurel.   I "woofed" lightly at the cubs to get them to stand and "momma" decided she needed to check us out.  The PA DCNR fences in large areas of Pa State Forest Land after it has been clear cut to keep the animals out so that the forest can fully develop.  Well, this sow and cubs were on the "wrong side" of the fence and I was wondering how they got there.  Momma came directly to a tree that the fence was nailed to and promptly climbed the tree and came over the fence and down on our side.  She them proceeded right directly toward Joan and I.  We decided to stay calm and still.  She came within two to three feet of both us and them ambled along our vehicle looking in the windows and checking out our mothers and then she went up the fence line and found another tree and climbed back into the clear cut forest and continued eating with her cubs.

The following picture is full frame (no cropping) taken with the 600 Canon lens on a 1D Mark IV at about 40 feet.  The picture after it is with a Canon 7D and a 300 f2.8-once again full frame at about 15 feet.  
Canon 1D MKIV; Canon 600 f4 @ F8 1/60 ISO500

Canon 7D; Canon 300 f2.8 @ F10 1/50 ISO640

Joan was shooting her D300 with 80-400 Nikon on it and she was able to get some shots as well.
Nikon D300; Nikon 80-400 @400mm  f8 1/200 ISO500

Nikon D300; Nikon 80-400 @170mm  f8 1/100 ISO500

It was an exciting time!!  Our mothers talked about it all the way back to the cabin and then over breakfast the next morning. Certainly a memorable weekend. Just so I do not get any lectures-I have been around LOTS of bears my entire life and I highly respect them and have learned what to watch for with their behavior.  This one was simply looking for hand-outs.  We had just had some peanuts and pepperoni and I am sure she smelled. My concern is that folks have been hand feeding (or close to that) these wild bear sin that area and it makes them bold and approachable--a dangerous combination!

A parting shot of one of the cubs:
Canon 1D MKIV; Canon 600 f4@f9 1/500 ISO800

Until next time!

Jim Borden


Passinthru Outdoors said...

WOW. Great photos as always. Bear pictures are one of my favorites.

Thanks for sharing.

Brk Trt said...

Black bears are beautiful.
Your photos do them justice.

Willard said...

That is an outstanding encounter with bears, Jim.

Dave said...

Great shots of the bear. Daves photo views

jocodeane said...

Thank you for posting this, Jim.
Fabulous. Your two mums weren't scared at all?
What a day.