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Photographing the Ice Grizzlies of the Yukon

A Grizzly Bear Making A Splash In The River   Captured During The Natureslens Ice Grizzlies Of The Yukon Photography Holiday

My experience of photographing the Ice Grizzlies of the Yukon could very easily read like one of those early childhood ‘what I did in my holidays’ essays. “I got up & then I got on a coach. I went to the airport & flew in a big plane to a place called Vancouver. I got into another, smaller plane & went to Whitehorse. It was snowy & cold. The next day I got in an even smaller plane & went to a place called Dawson City.  It was a Sunday; everything was closed. I stayed in a hotel & then we got in a helicopter. Then we saw bears & a wolf. Then we came home”.

That’s pretty accurate, albeit over-simplistic. It’s quite an adventure getting to Bear Cave Mountain, but boy is it worth it. Dawson City is a fascinating mix of history & modern. Many old buildings date from the Gold Rush era, in varying states of upkeep, & the trappings of modern life, but with a very Northern twist. A seasonal city that serves the tourist industry as well as still supporting commercial gold extraction. It was post-season when we were there but it was still fascinating & the people are welcoming.
The next stage of the adventure is the helicopter ride — two hours over the starkly majestic tundra & mountains of the Northern Yukon. Challenging & inhospitable doesn’t even start to describe it. The approach to the camp is ‘interesting’. There’s no sign of where the camp is & the pilot just took us down to river level & landed on a shingle ‘beach’. Only then could we see the camp through the trees. Settling in didn’t take long. There are only four buildings & a ‘room with a view’ – more on this later – the main cabin, three two-person sleeping cabins & a loo.
The message from the very point of arrival was that this is grizzly bear country & everywhere was a potential viewing site – yes, even the camp. And that, I suppose, is the key to the success of this place. Respect the grizzly bears & their environment & they will reward you. The local guides, Phil & Ross, were quick to induct us into the required behaviour – slow, deliberate movement, no talking unless necessary, & then very quietly. The philosophy is to give the bears nothing – no encouragement, no reward, & no bad experiences of humans. It works.

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