On a recent trip to Alaska, I had the opportunity to observe brown bears in their natural habitat. It was an amazing experience.
Accompanied by National Geographic naturalists, our group arrived at a remote river. We spotted 2 adult female bears and 2 cubs feeding on the abundant salmon. The rushing water and the gulls’ cries helped mask our human presence. The bears were aware of us, but did not appear to be bothered. The mother bear stayed close to her cubs, providing them with fish and teaching them to snag salmon from the water.
For 2 hours we sat quietly, mesmerized by all the activity. Raw, wild Earth…it was incredible.
Later, one of my fellow travelers asked how our presence affected the bears. The naturalists explained that our presence actually gave the mother and her cubs some relief from danger. Male bears will kill any cubs they encounter. Our presence kept the male bears away.
We learned that a male bear will kill cubs so the female will mate again. His highest priority is to ensure that his own genes are passed on. Male bears never meet their own cubs, so they have no attachment to any cubs they encounter.
I felt sad for the male bears, never having an opportunity to know their children. And I felt sad for the female bears, having to shoulder so much responsibility. So mysterious are the ways of the Earth, well beyond my understanding.
It’s rare to hear that humans ever have a positive effect on nature. For one morning, because of us, a mother bear and her cubs experienced a brief respite from the danger that is their world.
(New photos on website Gallery: wandernature.com/new-photos)