Unnecessarily uneasy

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The family out for an evening stroll.

Have you ever done everything right and still felt little uneasy about the situation? If you’re not married you may not fully understand the feeling.

Late one evening in Banff National Park I came upon a grizzly and three older cubs. By the time we arrived, they were steadily moving away from us, far up the mountain. I watched in awe as the four bears worked their way up a rocky creek bed.

I have a lot of respect for any grizzly, especially a mom. I completely understand that it’s better for all concerned if we don’t disturb each other. Therefore I made sure there was more than adequate distance between us – in fact they were quite small without the aid of my telephoto lens.

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Is she looking at me?

Suddenly the grizzly mom turned back and looked in my direction. Now I’m not entirely sure she was looking at me but it was remarkable how the distance between us instantly melted away. It was the kind of look that made the back of neck feel uncomfortable! I felt exposed and vulnerable, at least until I quit looking in my lens. It was not long but long enough.

The bears continued on their way undisturbed. I was still feeling uneasy and that annoyed me since I hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact the whole situation may have been manufactured in my head.

I wonder if I would have felt the same way before I was married?

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On their way again.

Krahnpix note. There is a moral to this story – marry someone with a sense a humour. When I read this post to my wife, her first reaction was to laugh.

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Latest Comments

  1. sagescenery says:

    I had a close encounter with a black bear once in upstate NJ…I have the scraped knees, ring, and glasses to prove it…when I spotted him out of the corner of my eye, I thought…”What a beautiful, LARGE dog…BEAR!!!” I picked up my son, turned, ran, fell, got up, and ran some more!! He paid me no mind…Thank God! He was looking for water at the end of a particularly dry summer…and strolled out of the trees into the roadway in my brother-in-law’s neighborhood! Scarey for me, for sure…and no camera! Ha!

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  2. mflahertyphoto says:

    You were certainly not imagining anything Lyle. You probably already know this, but there are many documented cases of grizzlies charging (and mauling) from distances of 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile even. That was a definite message that was received by your lower brain (which is smarter than the cortex in some cases).

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  3. toughlittlebirds says:

    Grizzlies are not to be trifled with, and as several others have pointed out, they can run! So I don’t think you need to feel bad about being nervous. There’s nothing wrong with a survival instinct. Interesting to see how long the bear cubs stay with Mom – they’re huge!

    I think your wife should be flattered that you consider her the equivalent of four grizzly bears! She must get her way a lot 🙂

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I found out later that this was the third year for the grizzly cubs so they really are huge. It’s likely mama would have sent them on their way in the near future. This particular bear has had quite a few cubs over the years while choosing to live in a more high traffic area of the park. One of the more interesting reasons for doing may be to decrease contact with male grizzlies who might harm the cubs. With potential hazards everywhere, she is a survivor and a great mom.

      The part I may have left out is that my wife is the more easy-going one but that would definitely have taken away from the humour!

      Like

  4. Gunta says:

    I can always count on you for a good chuckle! I think ‘stink eye’ is the perfect description. Fantastic capture, as usual! and a funny story to go with it. Priceless! 🙂

    Like

  5. Phil Lanoue says:

    I have felt exposed and vulnerable in the past particularly one time when I got the an uneasy feeling that I should look behind me and there was a 7 foot alligator walking right toward me that I never heard because it never made a sound.
    So I can certainly understand having a very healthy respect for momma grizzly and her cubs. I really like these shots and have to think if it was me I would probably be so excited and stunned at seeing these amazing animals that I would either get nothing at all or totally screw up what shots I would manage to attempt. So… job well done!

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks so much. I know I would be more stunned than excited if I saw a gator walking toward me that I hadn’t heard! But given your gator shots that didn’t happen. It’s funny how familiarity plays a role.

      Like

  6. Mike Powell says:

    I love your shots of “the look” and am amused that so many of the comments center around the question of outrunning the bear. It almost sounds like a variation of the old joke about not having to outrun the bear, but only having to be able to outrun your fellow photographers. For the record, I’m not married, but I think I’d recognize that “don’t mess with me” look from afar.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      You are absolutely right on both counts. Taking reasonable precautions is all about avoiding the impossible scenario of being chased by a speedster. And I still like that old joke. There are many things that require training to learn – “the look” isn’t one of them. You would recognize it.

      Like

  7. janina says:

    Interpreting “the look” is the art, human or otherwise! Your pix are a treat, and I’m glad you stayed your ground.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I have learned a lot about interpreting the look – you are so right!

      Glad you enjoy the photos. I liked the “stayed your ground” comment. You’re the first person to take that angle.

      Like

  8. idiotphotographer says:

    Just curious, how far away were the bears in reality? Knowing how fast a bear can book it when they want to I think some goosebumps were in order in that situation. I’ve never been married but I suspect I know that feeling fairly well. Though given my usual choice of subject I feel my near constant state of paranoid fear is well justified.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      The bears were a long ways away. It’s hard to estimate but maybe 175-200 metres. I could have got much better photos if they were closer. I have watched a young bear suddenly race up a hill at a speed that shocked me. It helps to put things in perspective. At the same time taking good precautions and respecting the animals dramatically lowers the risk.

      I can see where your subject matter could easily make you far more paranoid than watching bears from a distance. I’m sticking with wildlife.

      Like

  9. melodylowes says:

    Ha! I am reading a guilty conscience between those lines… 🙂 I can’t imagine NOT feeling uneasy with a mama bear glare – married or not, there would have to be a significant barrier betwixt she and me…

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  10. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    It is a good thing that your wife has a great sense of humor, especially because you are so funny. That would be a tragedy if she didn’t understand you.

    Once a bear stepped out of the forest and right in front of my wife and I. We took off running. That was not the right thing to do. At least you didn’t run.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      When I found someone who consistently laughed at my jokes, I married her and it worked out amazingly well. I still think that was a good strategy.

      In the photos, the bear was far enough away that there wasn’t any reason to run especially given the bear’s behaviour.

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  11. Cornel A. says:

    I’m not married, so I not fully understand the feeling you’re talking about.
    But I like these photos, especially the second one where the mom is looking in your direction. That’s a nice look. Well it’s nice only in your photograph but for real might be scary a bit, or a bit more.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Despite the moment she looked she at me, it was a wonderful experience that I am so pleased to have had. I had taken good precautions so I was safe. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

      Like

  12. nliakos says:

    I understand that a grizzly bear can cover a lot of ground in a very short time. It wouldn’t be possible for a person to outrun one, so I completely understand how you felt. Once my husband and I were hiking down Old Rag Mountain in Virginia when we came upon a small black bear. Our first reaction was excitement because we had never seen a bear in the wild before. Our second reaction was to head down the mountain REALLY FAST. This was probably an over-reaction. Black bears are not known to be aggressive. But some things are just instinctive, I guess. I doubt that it has anything to do with your marital status!

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      You’re right about the marital status, I just couldn’t resist throwing in that line!

      I have watched a young bear suddenly race up a hill at a speed that shocked me. It helps to put things in perspective. At the same time taking good precautions and respecting the animals dramatically lowers the risk.

      Like

  13. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    I think I know how you must have felt. When I was a teen, I was flushing pheasants for a friend of mine on his farm in PA – me instead of a hound! Anyway, I came upon rustling in the brush and though a pheasant would take flight. It was a black bear cub and he jumped out so fast and ran. All I could think about was I was going to mom’s next meal. Boy was I scared. Lucky me, no mom to the rescue. I am glad you got such nice photos and lived to tell the tale.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yikes that would be scary not knowing where mom is! Some things are best left to a hound. Thankfully in my case the mom and the cubs were all accounted for and a long ways off so it was all good.

      Like

  14. Honie Briggs says:

    “The look” oh yes, the mamma bear, don’t you dare, paralyzing stare. It’s a female thing, for sure. Very funny.

    Like

  15. judysbirds says:

    I think your reaction was instinctual and correct. That Momma bear knew where you were the whole time, and no matter how quiet, distant, and respectful you were being, she wouldn’t have been doing her job if she didn’t give you the stink eye at least once!!

    Like

  16. Seenorway says:

    A mother with tree cubs, I take it? That’s rare, isn’t it? He he, so you think you have somehow evolved? Most of us do, you know, but I acknowledge the fact that yhour wife may have had an impact. If not, she would possibly have been frustrated! 😀

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes it was a mother with three cubs. Interestingly we also encountered three older cubs that had just been sent off by their mom in Grand Teton Nation Park in the US. I’m no expert on the number of cubs but I don’t think it’s extremely rare though one or two are far more common.

      It really is fascinating how spouses help shape each other and how much more they would like to do it. And you’re certainly right about your frustrating comment. In the end I’m better for it and should evolve more.

      Like

  17. Steve Gingold says:

    Considering the damage a mom grizzly can wreak, I’d be nervous too, Lyle. I hear they can really motor and the distance could shrink quite quickly. Most animals are pretty consistent in their behavior, but it only takes one with a different attitude so good to be cautious. Pictures are important to us but not worth life and limbs.
    Marriage works much better with humor. A cartoon has been going around Facebook recently….If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman there to hear, is he still wrong?

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I have watched a young bear suddenly race up a hill at a speed that shocked me. It helps to put things in perspective. At the same time taking good precautions and respecting the animals dramatically lowers the risk.

      I’m a fan of humour so I completely agree that marriage and so many other relationships work better with humour.

      Like

  18. vanbraman says:

    Great pictures and a good story. You know that I like the bear pictures. You might see a few more hits from Australia in the next couple of weeks :-).

    Like

  19. Lara Armes-Venter says:

    Haha I love your little note at the end! And such awe-inspiring pics – I would love to see a Grizzly again

    Like

  20. caleephotography says:

    😀 i always enjoy your funny writing and beautiful pictures!

    Like

  21. Victor Rakmil says:

    Thanks for the laugh!. Great series!

    Like

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