Teddy Bear

If you know how dangerous a bear is, you wonder why they give -of all animals!- stuffed bears, also called ‘Teddy Bears’, to kids and babies. But even though my brain says they are dangerous, I must agree that they look particularly cute. At least, if you look past the blood around their mouths, and discard the way they capture, skin alive and eat the salmon.

“Where did that fish go?”

“Let go of me!”

The Catch

Even so. They are unbelievably cute. So much that I would want to hug them. Even when they stand in front of you, really close, and gigantically tall.

I have stood in front of a bear (or rather, bears), several times, really close. Mostly the bear is not ‘standing’, but walking on his 4 legs, so the giganticness doesn’t strike you that much. Well , it does strike you, in a way. But still, they look cute.

If it wasn’t for the armed guards, one walking in the front, and one in the back, constantly urging us to stay close, and occasionally telling us to back off, we would have gotten close enough to actually touch them.

After he has caught and skinned his salmon, he goes looking for a quiet place to eat it.
Nap time.
Right after he duck after his salmon, which he obviously missed…
Catch me of you can! A salmon swimming by while the bear is to busy eating another one.

I have traveled a lot, and I have been to many interesting places, but not one was looked at with so much eager and enthusiasm by my friends and followers than this trip to bear country, Kamchatka.

Kamchatka, a far away land, also called the Far East of Russia. It is a long flight (from Moscow) and a huge time difference (11H), and as soon as you arrive you know you are in an extraordinary place. Especially when you land on the empty airport of Petropavlovsk in a Boeing 777, where you have to get off the plane, and into a bus, that drives you 15 meters further and drops you off at to the door of a tent where the luggage belt is (why can’t we walk?). There are only a few tourists like us, many locals, and a lot of Russians visiting from Moscow, arriving with their guns, ready to hunt some bears.

Yes, in Kamchatka they hunt for bears. Some with a gun, others, like me, with a camera. There are many, many bears in the Peninsula, some say too many. We Europeans wonder, can there ever be too many? (their cuteness must have something to do with that, and having to live with the constant risk of being attacked by one of those dangerous giants is something we tend to forget))

For many people, the bears are the only reason why they go to that place. For me it was one of many, but after 3 days of ‘hunting’ and shooting over 2000 bear photos, I have to admit that I have come to love them.

mmmmm Delicious!
Mother bear waiting for a fish to pass by (and be caught).
Same mother, now jumping after the fish (which she caught, by the way).

We went to a national park at Kurilskoye that is known for its bears. All day for 3 days we walked around the area, close to each other, looking for bears. One day we saw more then 70, all doing their thing. Mostly this is hunting for fish, call it fishing, often it is sleeping, or napping, or just walking towards good fishing spots. Bears are slow, or so it seems, calm, but when they accelerate they change into something quite different. You do not want to cross their path when they run (towards you).

Some bears are fishing champions, they catch one salmon after the other, others really suck at it, like that one bear the guards called ‘Jumper’, because he always jumps into the water but hardly ever catches something. As a result he is skinny. Some bears are constantly running after fish, others are standing at the shore looking down until an interesting one comes along, they then jump in, sometimes come out with a fish, sometimes they missed.

The salmon, still alive at this particular moment I am afraid…

It was extremely tempting to stay and watch a bear for hours, with cameras at hand, ready to shoot when they make a move, but very often they would stand there and look into the water and not move at all. But we knew, there are more bears further on. Kurilkoye is a bear crowded area. Here, buy the way, there is no place for hunters, and even the guards said they never had to shoot a bear. There had never been a dangerous situation during their guard…

This guy has just jumped and missed.
Waiting for fish…

Even though I don’t consider myself a wild life photographer, this bear shooting was a wonderful experience, so you should best keep on following me to see what else I will be doing in the future 😉

Have a great bear-day, give your friend a bear hug, and for our Flemish readers; ‘t was Beire goe!

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