Bear necessities

Alaska is a wild and not easily accessible place. One of the rewards for getting there are is the opportunity to encounter wildlife in its own unspoilt natural habitat. Here we meet and photograph the bears of Katmai.

The thought of getting up close and personal with a Grizzly bear in the wild is not something which many people would relish. These apex predators have a fearsome reputation but, like any animal in its natural environment, this reputation is based on confrontation – often unexpected confrontation. Bears attack when they are threatened or protecting their young, sometimes when they are hungry, not because it’s their first instinct to hunt human beings.

There are a few places in the world where it’s possible to get close to these majestic creatures and Alaska is one of the best, if not the best. In summer the salmon leave the Pacific Ocean, heading into coastal Alaska to spawn. As they travel up through the bays into a network of rivers they also travel into bear country and their long journey faces perhaps its biggest peril as fish meets bear. As with so much in nature, the cycles of predator and prey inter-connect and the bears come down to the coast to feed and fatten up for winter. 

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By Chris Coe

Chris is a professional photographer, and the founder of Travel Photographer of the Year. He has been working as a professional photographer since 1992, shooting both editorial and advertising photography, and has published over 50 books. He lectures on and teaches photography, mentors and is a competition judge.