July 7, 2012
It rained nearly the whole day, but I hardly noticed. We were surrounded by bears, both black and brown, and somehow rain just wasn’t relevant.
Breakaway Adventures packed 12 of us into their landing craft style boat The Motivator for the one hour trip around the east side of Wrangell Island to Anan Creek Lagoon. After disembarking, we checked in with a Forest Service ranger actually named Cody Bear. Then, our guide, armed with a shot-gun, led us on the 1/2 mile hike to the Anan Creek Bear Observatory. About half way down the trail, we had our first two bear encounters, including a black bear about 30 feet in front of us on the trail. After he wondered off, we continued to the Observatory, a wood deck-like platform overlooking the creek, along with a photo blind-down at creek level.
Here, we watched bears for about three and a half hours, including an hour in the photo-blind. In total, there was a mother brown bear with two second-year cubs, a black bear with a newborn cub and about five or six other black bears wandering around the creek and the woods nearby. They ranged from 200 feet to 6 feet away. Then we noticed one sleeping right under the viewing platform literally a foot below people’s feet.
It seemed like the black bears would drop down to the creek, unsuccessfully paw around for fish, and climb back up into the woods. They did this over and over. We didn’t see a single black bear catch a fish, though you could see them working themselves into a bit of a frenzy when they were down by the river. They were seeing fish, just not very successful in catching them.
Finally, a mother brown bear and her two cubs came by to show them how its done. Aggressively chasing salmon through the water, she got one to jump the wrong way. Landing on a boulder, the 2-foot long salmon was easily pinned down and the brown bear family had a meal. 45 minutes later, she caught another.
How to catch a salmon in 6 easy steps …