2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   OUR BEAR & MOOSE SIGHTINGS
  IN URBAN ANCHORAGE

FRIDAY, JUNE 29

 
"Do bears live in subdivisions? Anchorage bears do! These urban residents
meander through greenways and roadways on their daily commutes." 
 
~ from an interpretive panel at Potter Marsh
 
 
According to this interpretive panel, Anchorage is the only known city in the world with a resident brown (i.e., grizzly) bear population. At least three dozen grizzlies live in or near the metro area.

Along with at least 60 known city-dwelling black bears, these bruins spend the summer traveling through greenbelts -- and sometimes residential neighborhoods -- to fish urban waterways and hunt for other food like berries, grasses, sedges, and baby or injured moose.

Even though they aren't at the top of the food chain, up to a thousand moose also inhabit the city and the foothills of the Chugach Mountains at its fringes.

I think that's really cool. It's pretty easy to spot a bear or moose right in Anchorage. You don't have to go to a remote area to find them.

In the two weeks (almost) that we've been in Anchorage we've seen a fair number of bears and moose along the Coastal Trail and in our campground at JBER, two of the places shown on the sign above where you're most likely to see bears.

Each big critter we see is a treat.


Mama Bear appears to have her hackles raised in defense.

We took our second long bike ride on the Coastal Trail today. Both Jim and I had the pleasure of seeing a mama black bear (above) and three, yes three, cubs at close range this morning -- very, very cool. I didn't even know bears had more than two cubs at a time.

At our campground we've also seen a lone female moose (next picture) and a mama moose with twins that were born this spring. Again, I thought moose had only one baby at a time.

Alaska does everything big. There are so many new things to learn up here.


This is somewhat of a defensive stance, too, but soon she was eating leaves
again and ignored Cody and me even though we were close to her.

In this entry I'll show you pictures of these families and the individual bears and moose we've spotted in Anchorage, as well as some new photos from the Coastal Trail that I took today.

I got a new 16-megapixel 16x zoom Sony compact digital camera a couple days ago. Some of these photos were taken with it and some with my older 12-megapixel 4x zoom camera. I can already tell a difference in my ability to get pictures at closer range.

CAMP BEARS

Our first Anchorage encounter with bears was at our campground soon after we arrived.

Campers are warned in writing and by the campground hosts about bear presence and safety when they initially check in. The campground is in the woods and bears are attracted to the food they can scrounge near campsites.

In a previous entry I showed a picture of a bear in the distance when I was walking Cody early one morning.

Another morning recently Jim saw a young black bear, probably a yearling, walking in the road right behind our camper. I got a picture just as it turned and ran away from us:

Shortly another bear came out of the woods and followed the first one across the dirt road on the other side of our camper. Both suddenly ran into the woods because a truck was riding slowly past our camper toward them.  

Right behind the truck was one of the campground hosts, riding in his golf cart. He was on a walkie-talkie with someone. I went out to talk with him. He said the two young bears had been reported at several campsites this morning. He didnít say anything about trying to run them out of camp. I figured he was just keeping tabs on them. 

In a few minutes Jim saw one of the bears (or a third one) come out of the woods toward our picnic table on the path where I take Cody into the woods to potty. I got several pictures of him head-on from inside the camper:

 

Check out those claws:

He wandered across the road and into the woods on the other side of our neighbor's camper:

Pretty soon a truck from the Alaska Fish & Game Dept. stopped next to our camper. A ranger got out with some sort of rifle or shotgun and watched the bear go into the woods.

We hoped he wasnít going to shoot the bears, just scare them or tranquilize and relocate them to a more remote location. I know from previous experience when we were campground hosts at a state park in Texas that sometimes "relocate" is a euphemism for "kill" but they don't tell that to the public!

  

We didnít see the second bear again. We did see the ranger and a cohort go past our camper several more times. I was hoping the bears escaped unharmed.

We haven't seen any more bears in the campground since that day, however. Phooey.

BEAR TRIPLETS

Not to worry. There are more bears to be seen in Anchorage than just the ones at JBER!

On our first ride on the Coastal Trail a week ago we kept our bear and moose antennae up. We did see a lone female moose (next photo) on the hill going up to Kincaid Park at the more wooded southern end of the greenway but alas, no bears.


Moose along the Coastal Trail in Kincaid Park

Despite the clouds and chill in the air this morning we drove downtown to ride the Coastal Trail for a second time on our bikes.

Once again we went outbound together (10Ĺ miles) and rode back separately so I could take pictures. I didnít take nearly as many as the first time, mostly because Iíve already got some pictures on a sunnier day.


Cyclists and hikers stop at a high point on the Coastal Trail to watch airplanes
 come and go from the international airport (out of view on the left). 

The highlight of our day was seeing a mama bear and two cubs on the outbound about a mile from our turn-around point.

I couldnít get good pictures, though. The mother was mostly hidden behind leafy foliage:

Other cyclists who stopped first said there were two cubs. Jim saw them but I didn't.

We continued several miles down to Kincaid Park and turned around. On the way back Jim was ahead of me by a couple minutes. I stopped quickly when I saw him and a few other cyclists stopped about the same place where we'd seen the mama bear earlier.

Turns out, there were THREE cubs! Since they were out in the open I was able to see mom and the cubs clearly this time and get some decent pictures of them:


Mama Bear turns to make sure her cubs are following behind her.


Isn't that cute???


Two of the triplets

The bears were all only about 25 feet away from the greenway, much closer than experts recommend getting to any kind of bear. Those of us on the greenway didn't have much choice, although we could have chosen to continue moving instead of stopping to watch.

Mama's demeanor was mostly calm so we watched carefully, ready to start cycling quickly if necessary. Black bears are generally less dangerous than brown/grizzly bears but you don't want to be pursued by either kind, even if you're riding a bicycle.

Jim left before I did. I stuck around for a little while longer with a couple other cyclists to watch the bears.

When some other cyclists came up too fast behind us Mama Bear got up on her hind legs, a bit agitated and moving slowly toward us. The cubs ran off into the woods and I left PDQ:

 

If there are only 60+ black bears in the Anchorage area, we've done very well seeing at least six of them so far! I'm guessing that number is adult bears and doesn't include each spring's new cubs.

ANOTHER INTERESTING DISTRACTION

We both had good rides today. Jim got back faster than I did again.

Not only did I take some pictures, I also stopped for about ten minutes on the high place on the trail near Point Woronzof to watch big cargo and passenger airplanes come and go from the airport:


This is a good place to have a camera and binoculars.


Incoming!!

Today they were landing to the NE from Cook Inlet over Kincaid Park and taking off to the NW over the Point. The direction varies depending on the prevailing winds.

That high point should be a good place to see Denali and other mountains in the Alaska Range to the north but it was too cloudy again to see them.

MOOSE WITH TWINS

So far we've seen about the same number of moose in Anchorage as bears even though more than ten times as many moose live here. 

Jim and I have seen a lot of moose in New England and the western U.S. on our travels around the country and during the time we lived in Montana. But each one, especially those we come into close proximity to, is a thrill.


Another cyclist with a camera on the right is stopped to take the same picture of downtown at low tide.

They are magnificent animals, representing all that is wild. So it is with wide-eyed wonder that we are finding them right in our campground and along the greenway in a major metropolitan area. That concept is what's new to us.

Our campground moose count (4 different ones) is slightly higher so far than our greenway moose count (3).

We saw a lone female moose and a mama with one offspring on the Coastal Trail (below) on June 21 but haven't seen any more on the greenway since then.

We've seen at least four moose in the Black Spruce Campground at JBER.

We had heard from other folks in the campground about a mama moose with twins but didn't see them until two days ago as we were leaving for our day trip along Turnagain Arm. They crossed the road outside the campground just behind us.

Jim was lucky to see them in the rearview mirror. He stopped so we could see them better:

 

 

I got off a couple quick shots with our old, less powerful camera before they scooted into the campground woods.

Today was my Lucky Moose Day. A few minutes before Jim got up I was sitting at my desk and saw movement out the window Ė it was the same mama moose (I'm assuming) with her two babies, walking through the woods about 20 feet outside our camper!! Unfortunately, they were gone before I could get my camera out.

Dang. Cody wasnít aware of them until I squealed in delight.

After supper, while I was walking Cody around the campground, I saw a big female moose right next to the road on the far side of the loop:

She was in the woods but her face was near the road about 20 feet from Cody and me. We were as surprised to see her as she was to see us -- maybe more so. 

The moose looked at us (photo above), got into what I perceived as a somewhat defensive position (photo below),

and then placidly continued to eat leaves from the tree she'd been munching on:

A young woman living in the campground all summer drove up and stopped to take pictures, too. She said she didnít think itís the same moose with the two babies.

I couldnít tell the difference in the female adults but didnít see any babies with this one. If she had any, they'd probably be close to her.

Wonder what critters we'll see tomorrow??? That's one of the fun things about Alaska.


Little pools of water remain in the mudflats when the tide goes out.


Field of daisies on a knoll above the mudflats

So far I'm pleased with my new camera. I still have a lot to learn about the various settings but I can already tell a difference in how much better I can zoom in on details in 16-megapixel photos when I'm editing them than I could with 12-megapixel shots. I also have considerably more zoom capability with a 16x lens than a 4x one, although fuzziness at the longer lengths is a problem because I don't use a tripod.

Maybe some day I'll splurge and get a digital SLR camera . . . just not sure I want to fiddle that much with different settings and lenses. I did that in my 20s and 30s but I like things simpler now.

Next entry:  variation on a theme -- my second hike to Rendezvous Ridge

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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