Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wrangell--4th of July celebrations and bears!

We arrived in Wrangell on the 4th at about 7 PM and the celebrations were in full swing.  This small town of a few thousand people is THE place to be on the 4th when everyone who ever lived in Wrangell is invited "home".  We were asked a few times when we had gone to school here--I think we must have been amongst the very few people who have never lived here.  We were often wished "Have a happy 4th!"  The exuberant crowds of young and old reminded me of Holi celebrations in India.  There people throw coloured powders--here they toss firecrackers (fortunately not at people) and carry lit sparklers, and every kid has his/her face painted.   People were wearing every manner of red, white and blue clothing.  The main street was blocked off--we must have just missed an egg tossing event because the street was littered with broken eggs.  A hot dog eating contest was in full swing.  Obviously food is not in short supply when it can be used in such a way!

The fireworks (yes I managed to stay up until after 11 to watch the display) were magnificent--just out in the harbour in front of the Stikine Inn where we stayed the first night.

The next morning the streets were all washed clean and this tidy little town was on its way back to its normal self.  We booked a boat trip to the Anan Bear reserve for the afternoon, and what an experience!  We could have stayed long past our allotted 3 hours at the reserve watching the bears, eagles and crows devour salmon from the river.   We figure we saw about 9 brown (grizzly) bears (including a sow and two cubs) and 5 or 6 black bears.  The feeding habits were quite different.  One brown bear in particular high-graded all the fatty bits (head, roe, skin) and left the rest of the carcass to float away while he/she snatched another out of the river.
Walking along the board walk to the viewing platform with our guide Zak who was carrying a gun and bear spray just in case of an encounter.  There's only been one unfortunate incident with a bear on the path in the last 20 years--they're more interested in the salmon and each other.

An eagle waiting for a discarded carcass.
Black bear on the boardwalk just outside the observation platform.

Had to wait for the bear to clear off the path before using the outhouse!
A brown bear taking out the tasty bits
Why it's not a good idea to climb a tree to get away from a black bear.  This one obviously had eaten enough and needed a snooze.
on the viewing platform
Looking down onto the covered walkway to the photo blind right at the river's edge.  We had to sign up for 1/2 hour stints in the blind.  The sow and one of her cubs is just to the right of the blind in this image.
sow and cubs
Watching the bears catch and feed was mesmerizing.  I realized that I was totally in the moment, not thinking of anything else.

The bears had different feeding habits--the black bears would grab a fish and then take it off to eat in private up the bank out of view, whereas the brown bear feeding directly across from us was much more cavalier--taking only the fatty bits and leaving the rest--and staying at the edge of the river.  The exception to this was the mother grizzly who would catch a fish and share it with her smaller cub, leaving the larger one to chew on his/her own fish.

The view from the platform looking down the river to the lagoon where earlier we had seen lots of seals chasing  the fish.
This brown bear became aware of the sow and cubs below and turned around.  There's obviously a pecking order in place.
Cubs became aware of the new bear.
Well that is just a small sampling of the over 200 pictures Lloyd and I took yesterday!

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