Tag Archives: Camera Trap

The Secret Lives of Bears Revealed (?)

Last summer I built a camera trap with one goal in mind – photograph bears in their environments without people. I’m fascinated the insights you can gain into the animals and initially imagined all sorts of dramatic, National Geographic worthy photography. In short, I was convinced that “EPIC!” imagery was a guarantee. While I’m not there yet, I did manage to capture some dramatic moments, some fun ones, and learned a little about managing a camera trap along the way.

Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
This enormous and scarred Coastal Brown Bear was photographed strolling up river right at dusk. While I love the moodiness of the image created by the fog and the muted colors of the evening, it didn’t take long to realize that I needed to include a dehumidifier inside the camera trap box. Once I installed that I no longer dealt with fog building up on the inside of the camera housing during morning and evening hours.

Fishing Holes

For humans there is a lot of ways to “skin a cat”, for bears there is a lot of ways to catch a salmon. Throughout my images I saw bears perch above to look down in pools, snorkel in pools, and charge up pools. I’m sure each of these techniques had their strengths and their weakness.

Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Like a gymnast this coastal brown bear balanced on a log and peered down into the pool where salmon were swimming below.
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
This bear decided that the best way to catch a salmon was to go “snorkeling”. I have seen this behavior a lot from afar and find it is used a lot later in the season when carcasses abound on the bottom of the river.
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Charging up river and herding salmon into a corner is a favorite way of bears to catch salmon. This bear is doing just that.
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Bears and salmon both love logs. This bear is likely feeling under the log hoping to catch an unsuspecting salmon.

Family Time

Family interactions was something I hoped to gather more of. These two cubs with their mother were a special treat with an extra story. I deployed this camera and then walked back to my vehicle along the river and watched with my telephoto lens. About 10 minutes later this mother and cubs strolled down the river and then got spooked by something in the woods – likely a larger bear. They sprinted down river a ways and remarkably went right past my camera trap. Apparently the sow was not too concerned with the larger bear as she permitted her cub to capture a fish.

Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska

Bears are very active at dusk and dawn. Next year I’ll be operating a camera with a flash to better capture these bears in the low-light hours. I learned quickly to program my motion trigger to only take images during the daylight hours as to avoid wasting battery on night shots. I do like the context and silhouette of this bear as it strolls in the evening, however

Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska

Close Encounters

Bears are curious animals and I knew that could pose a risk to my camera. I housed my camera in an ammo can and that sufficed to keep the bears from wrecking it. There were some funny moments when the bears had to get a closer look though! One time a bear tried to eat the camera and another it walked straight up to the camera to smell it and fogged the glass. Photography can be risky business for your gear as I found out in this separate anecdote that always makes me chuckle.

Moments in the River

There were many, many images of bears being bears. Strolling up river, being observant, smelling out salmon and being gregarious. These are those moments and I challenge you to learn what you can from them.

Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska
Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska

Looking to Next Year

I simply cannot wait to continue to watch bears through my camera traps! This coming season I’m expanding my arsenal to two camera traps with upgraded capabilities. Two cameras will allow me to diversify my shots and provide new angles. I’m hoping to answer some questions such as “How do bears use hot feet” and “how to do bears use scratch poles” among others. Keep your eyes posted! You can always follow on Instagram or Facebook for the latest content.

Brown Bear, Camera Trap, Alaska