Brown Bears in the Sound
“Want to go see some bears?” My coworker, Milo Burcham, asked us.
“Yeah!” Danielle and I were ready to go.
When I first got to Cordova, I thought that a bear was the one animal I could deal with NOT seeing. I was terrified of coming across one while out hiking and although they do look fairly cuddly, the size of their claws and teeth were enough to deter me from ever wanting to see one… However, something about the rugged Alaskan landscape persuaded me that not only would getting to observe a bear be a very special treat, but it would also be pretty awesome especially since the only bear I had seen all winter was the bear on Mt. Eccles.
After work we headed out on Milo’s boat towards the Sound, the Bitterroot, with plenty of snacks and our fingers crossed. Once we found a good place we anchored the boat and started to hike. The tide was low enough that the salmon were splashing and making plenty of noise in the stream. That sure got the bears’ attention. We saw not one, not two, not three, but eight brown bears in a single evening! (Although the most Milo had ever seen was about 16 brown bears in one trip in the Sound.) Still, I thought we were pretty lucky to see so many.
Even though we were out in the open a couple bears didn’t notice us at all. They were so intent on fishing. I was surprised that despite the vast amount of salmon swimming in the low stream, some bears weren’t so great at fishing, but it was fun to watch them in action.
My favorite were watching the bear cubs playing. It was funny to hear them bawling also when their play got too rough. The only other sound I’ve heard that matches it was a crying baby goat. The bear cubs were having tons of fun climbing the trees and over the rocks. Their mother kept watch over them, but also tried to fish for some food, unsuccessfully.
It was an incredible trip. This was the closest I had ever been to a bear, but it has changed the way I think about bears. No longer do they look like the fearsome beasts I first took them to be. They look much more cuddly, although I have a lot of respect for them and still would only observe them at a distance.