The oddest inspiration

I freely admit my insatiable desire to keep photographing bears is a bit odd. Why does it keep pulling me in?

_T6C0142, bear, black bear, dandelions, Banff

Dandelion stems hanging out of the mouth of this supposedly vicious creature? Something doesn’t compute.

It’s not like I haven’t seen bears before or haven’t taken lots of photos.

When I finally find them, most of the time the bears don’t do anything that exciting since they are so focused on eating.

I still find it a bit humorous to watch a powerful beast searching out dandelions to munch on as though that constitutes real food. I mean come on, where’s the meat? And where’s the concern for their public image? And yet I still watch with fascination.

It turns out not everyone likes bears – a friend actually calls them pigs with fur. Nasty! But my interest in bears is far from unique.

_MG_9570 (1), bear, black bear, trees

Somehow this pose reminds me of photos the parks put in their brochures a few decades ago. I can’t figure out why.

Only a few drivers don’t stop and stare when there’s a bear eating at the side of the road. I’m guessing they are the ones texting.

When I’m standing in line at a park information office, invariably the person ahead of me asks, “Where are the bears?” It’s entirely possible I have asked it myself.

After much soul searching, I think I can trace my interest in bears back to the national park practices in the 60s and 70s. Back then, feeding wildlife seemed like a national sport – even the Canadian parks participated. When we wanted to see bears, we simply went to the unfenced dump where the park had laid out a wonderful garbage buffet for the bears.

Even as a young boy I remember the location lacked a certain ambience but it was a remarkably efficient way of finding them. Why drive around aimlessly when you could find them quickly? OK, now that we’ve seen the bears, let’s go for ice cream! Thankfully the attitudes and actions of national parks and the public have changed dramatically.

Still, after all these years and so many sightings, when spring rolls around I’m wondering where I can find wild bears. When I’m driving along a road and I see a large mass of moving fur, my heart literally starts to race.

Why do I have this obsession? I blame the strange powers of the bears back at the dump.

_T6C0160, black bear walking, trees, bear

I was so excited to find this bear crashing around fallen trees. Despite low light (forcing my ISO up to 3200 – yikes) and regularly losing the bear behind all the trees, I was able to grab this photo of a little different scene than eating grass. It’s one of my favourites.

the end

The photo below is another addition to the blooper reel. I saved this one because I kind of like it and it shows the typical openings in the trees that I was trying to use to get a good photo of the bear. Hopefully readers don’t like image this better!


Latest Comments

  1. Mind Margins says:

    Seeing a bear is like the ultimate coup! Maybe it’s because of they way they seem cute and cuddly, like the teddy bears we all clutched in our beds at night when we were little, but knowing they can, in reality, eat us alive. Maybe it’s that strange juxtaposition of awww and oh my god!!! when you see one for the first time. Bears are awesome!


    • lylekrahn says:

      It does seem like the ultimate coup and the reasons you described definitely adds to the intrigue. They are powerful and amazing creatures – have me hooked!


  2. artsifrtsy says:

    Love the blooper – I have a few shots of Flickers that look just like that 🙂 We have bears here, but they stay pretty much clear of humans most of the time. A few years ago we had a black bear in my neighborhood. I live in the woods so my hood is pretty spread out. One neighbor up the hill decided to put out 50 pounds of dog food so that she could take pictures of it – the bear stayed for weeks. It ate our garbage, bird feeders, and even beehives. Fish and Game was planning to put it down because it had become so accustomed to humans. Thankfully we persuaded the neighbor to stop feeding it and it went down into the hollows for the summer.


    • lylekrahn says:

      There is just something appealing about bloopers.
      Great story about the bear. It’s surprising how quickly food (or lack of it) changes wildlife behaviour. I like the happier ending. It sounds like you live in a great spot.


      • artsifrtsy says:

        It is a pretty great spot – lots of wildlife everywhere. We have debates about feeding deer or turkeys – I like them around but don’t want them to be dependent on me.


  3. Kodiak My Little Grizzly says:

    Love bears too… Enjoyed the photos so we are glad you are obsessed!!!


  4. melodylowes says:

    I’m a bear-a-phobe. I only like seeing them at a distance, in the safety of a vehicle (or preferably a castle keep). Hilarious that you caught dandelions in his teeth – what self-respecting carnivore wants to be caught eating salad? I actually remember going to the dump as a kid to see bears – haven’t thought of that in years. It IS rather odd, isn’t it?


    • lylekrahn says:

      I’m amused by how many bear-a-phones there are. They are just a salad-eating overgrown puppy at heart! I’m surprised that you have memories of the bears at the dumps too. It is really odd and probably a good reminder that when we think change happens slowly or not at all, with the passing of time there can huge changes in attitudes and actions.


  5. mimar9 says:

    Dear Lyle,

    You guys up north are all alike.

    Focusing on the obvious, even having to venture “down south” .

    Remembrance of youth.

    Obsessive behavior.

    Powerful presumption.

    Well now, maybe not.

    Tree me, very well conveyed.

    Fleeting bear, negatively displayed.

    Oddest inspiration, and yet, very well portrayed!

    Exceptionally talented capabilities.

    What shall we all be rewarded with as next on display?

    Just thought I’d ask,



  6. Deb W. Trotter says:

    Very happy to bear with you!!


  7. doriswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle, Just lovely lovely photographs of the bears I love. Thanks a lot. Regards, Ganesh.


  8. Charlene Willems says:

    I love these bear pics even though I have a fear of them…that could be because I encountered them twice in my youth and hope to never again!


    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you liked them! I suppose all my encounters as a kid must have been positive ones. I see all the warnings about bears in the area as generally false promises!


  9. Mike Powell says:

    Your story serves as a cautionary tale for me, warning me of the dangers of even stopping to look at bears. It started so innocently with a quick look at the bears at the dump. Now you have a self-confessed obsession, bordering on an addiction. Where will it end? Do they have a twelve-step program for bear photographers?


    • lylekrahn says:

      Consider yourself warned! The problem is that every support group I checked out turned out to be greater bear fanatics than I. I actually have no idea where it will end.


  10. gimpet says:

    Keep taking bear pictures. They fascinate me as well.


  11. Reen says:

    This is great – especially love the bear with dandelion! Have seen lots of alligators here in Florida, but no bears:-)


  12. Phil Lanoue says:

    I particularly enjoyed this sentence… “Why do I have this obsession? I blame the strange powers of the bears back at the dump.”
    I can see the whole obsession thing with bears too, I really can. Gotta love the bears!


    • lylekrahn says:

      I was hoping somebody else would like that line! I could see you as a bear guy. Who knows, I might even turn into a gator guy given the opportunity.


  13. Pam says:

    I love bears. We were so excited when we happened upon a mama bear and 3 cubs at the Tetons. A park ranger was keeping control of the crowd.


  14. Honie Briggs says:

    Bears seem so solitary and sad to me. Gentle or ferocious, their expressions always fascinate me too. I’ve never photographed one.


    • lylekrahn says:

      Be careful if you start, I found it hopelessly addicting. The expressions are interesting and all over the place and I am seriously wondering if they have any connection to what they are thinking.


  15. Gunta says:

    That last shot…. aside from the ghostly bear in back, is that bear sign you’re focused on (scratching on the tree trunk). Come on… make it seem like you were shooting for that in the first place! 😉


  16. Shy says:

    the last picture reminds me of bigfoot!


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