This is a guest post by Good Nature Travel writer Candice Gaukel Andrews.
Being close enough to view a grizzly bear in the wild inspires feelings of awe and nostalgia: wonder at their size and power and a longing for an America that once was — when the land was wild and pristine, and we newcomers were still adventurers exploring something big and far beyond anything else we had ever known. It’s hard to come by that feeling in any other way today, and that’s why we need grizzlies more than ever.
Because bears and humans share a similar omnivorous diet, we tend to want to live in the same places. Unfortunately, that didn’t bode well for the bears. Ursus arctos once lived in much of western North America, from Alaska to Mexico and from California to Ohio. Between 1850 and 1920, however, during the time of European settlement, we eliminated grizzly bears from 95 percent of their original range. Unregulated killing of grizzly bears continued in most places through the 1950s, resulting in a further 52 percent decline in their territories between 1920 and 1970.
Now, there are less than fifteen hundred grizzlies left in the United States south of Canada. Luckily, there are still about thirty-one thousand roaming the wilds of Alaska, and the adventurer in us all longs — and I would argue, needs — to safely and respectfully see them.
I saw my first wild grizzly bear in 2005 in British Columbia. After that, I knew that that one experience just couldn’t be my last. So I sought them out again in British Columbia in 2009, and in Alaska in 2006 and 2013. Below are some photos from my grizzly bear travels over those years.
Today, grizzly bears are symbols of wild America and the freedom we as a people treasure. And once the majority of us realize how essential they are to our identity as a nation, perhaps they will also become icons of understanding.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
Want to capture wildlife photos like these? Natural Habitat Adventures offers the world’s most intimate grizzly encounter on our small-ship tour of Alaska’s Kodiak and Katmai regions. We also offer an Alaska Wildlife Tour that includes bear viewing at famous Brooks Falls.