Bear With Us, Again & Again, Denali Wildlife Found Here!

Posted on July 20, 2010


Angel & Jesse Double Up for The 80-Mile Ride To Denali National Park

This Grizzily Mom waits for her two cubs in Denali National Park. All photos courtesy of Angel, soon-to-be-Selwyn, Davis.

Savage River Camp, 14 Miles Inside Denali National Park

Rain and cool weather continued during our two-day Denali stay, but failed to dampen our spirits. (Bob Note: Rudi feels clever when he makes sly analogies like this one. “Dampen our spirits”/rainy weather … get it?).

Golden Eagle Shameleesly Imitating A Guinea Hen

The bus into the park left at 7 a.m., for an 8-hour ride to the visitors center at mile 56 or so. The bus windows fogged up immediately on the inside, and got covered with mud splatters on the outside. Squeegees at rest stops and paper towels all the time, kept them reasonably clean, but made it difficult for the sight-challenged to find critters.

Momma With Two Cubs: These Are "Bad Bears" and Risk Getting Darted and Transplanted

Fortunately for all on the bus, Angel and Jesse have outdoors eyes. Angel spotted the first bears through the mist and soon they had found a total of nine. Momma here with the two cubs was closest to the road, and that’s why our guide termed them “bad bears”. Bears tht are too comfortable around humans become a problem for both species. These guys were going to be darted and transplanted to a more remote part of the park, but “bear aversion” measures are being tried first.

A Little Higher and More To The Left ... Ahhhhhhh

Waiting nearby on this day was a wildlife technician, who was prepared to apply the therapy if the bears approached the buses. This includes “sound aversion” like simulated gunshots or heavy metal music (Rudi isn’t joking). It can escalate to shooting the bears with rubber bullets along with annoying sounds. This isn’t cruel given the options. Darting can kill a bear, as can transplanting.

Cubs Stay With Mom For Three years Or So. They Are Born During Hibernation, And Mom Is Only Vaguely Aware Of This Process (Rudi Rather Doubts This).

Other human-habituated bears from the park have wandered too close to cabins and been shot and killed, not because they attacked, but because people feared they might attack. Better rubber bullets in the butt than real lead in the heart, says Rudi.

This is the bears' home and humans are the intruders. A Griz was recently killed here in a hail of 45 caliber pistol bullets by a man who had ignored bear scat (feces) and tracks as he and his girlfriend hiked quietly up a woody draw. They surprised a young male who reacted as nature intended, but ended up with him being shot dead because of the man's ignorance, or arrogance. Shooting a bear like this is not heroic, rather it's a terrible waste, says Rudi.

*A Rudi moment: Did you know that, while it is now legal to carry firearms in our National Parks, it remains illegal to fire them.  This is your government at work, folks. Perhaps the idiot who shot this griz would have been better off throwing the damn pistol at it. He would certainly have been better off studying the numerous ways of avoiding bears, and avoiding surprising them. Rudi is now standing down from his soap box.

Jesse spotted movement in a glacier-fed river bed and the bus ground to a halt.

Two Caribou Making Tracks: Note Hides, Where Mosquitoes, Flies and Other Parasites Make Their Homes

Caribou are a member of the deer family, the only one where both sexes grow antlers, heavy antlers. This is the time of year that female herds form with their young. They will join up with the males (who are presumably out drinking beer and talking about their sexual prowess elsewhere), and make up the large herds we hear about.

Caribou Mom and Calf In Flight

Suddenly a caribou Mom and her calf ran along the riverbank, obviously spooked, and made a break through the brush. Insects so bedevil these animals that they have been known to run for miles to escape, sometimes to the point of exhaustion and even death. Caribou do not like the warm weather that sprouts these tiny plagues in their nostrils and hides, where larvae grow. Rudi need a grog thinking about that one!

Whether this calf makes it or not is a crap shoot. Predators and extreme winters thin the herds and make it difficult for the Denali caribou to increase their numbers.

We saw Dall sheep high on the cliffs, foxes and ground squirrels, but no moose this trip. An over-abundance of snowshoe hares had depleted the willow, the moose’s favorite food up here. The hares’ population explodes and crashes in regular cycles and they are crashed now. A reduction in the number of their predators will likely follow.

Mt. McKinley (Denali: The Great One) On A Clear Day, Which Is About 20% Of The Time: Enjoy

Our heroes will depart Denali for Talneeka tomorrow and visit the closest thing to the 1960’s you can find up here. It is tied to Denali in that all expeditions seeking to climb The Great One, must register there. Quite a place is Talneekna. Rudi and Celeste can’t wait to take Angel and Jesse to the rock beach on the three rivers there.

Outside Talkeetna at Three rivers Confluence: No Denali Today


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Rudi G  & Jesse