Happy place

Do you have a happy place?

I can think of lots of happy places. You might be surprised how many of them involve bears. One particular meadow comes to mind.


Finding one grizzly is an amazing experience.

One sunny June day, we found a mama grizzly and her three large cubs. They had found a patch of thick spring grass liberally sprinkled with dandelions and quickly made it a happy eating place. They were mowing through the grass pretty good and just inhaling dandelions – the original happy meal. Though I must confess, I still find it odd to see these impressive bears gorging on salads. Where’s the meat?

I watched transfixed as they wandered around, ate and generally acted like bears. This was no ordinary bear, assuming there is such a thing. It was bear 64, aptly named for her earring, or more accurately, a prominent yellow tag. She is the matriarch of the Bow Valley in Banff National Park after giving birth to multiple litters over more than twenty years.

Bear 64 successfully learned to navigate the roads, rail lines and sometimes busy areas of the Bow Valley Parkway. It’s a dangerous place that killed her last two cubs after they went on their own – one by a train and the other by a vehicle. It’s possible she chooses to stay in the area to reduce the potential danger to her cubs from male grizzlies who tend to stay further away from human activity. Bear 64 continues to not only survive but thrive.

There are dangers everywhere even for a large grizzly but on that day the bear world was in perfect order and so was mine. These large cubs might be on their own by now. Hopefully they will learn to thrive like their mother and make happy places for themselves and people like me.


To get a photo of two is special …


Two and bit grizzlies is even better …


Three grizzlies and a hint of one means I’ve almost got them all …

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Finally the stars and the grizzlies align so I can get all four in the photo.

Krahnpix note: I found an interesting article on the philosophy of photographing bears in national parks.


Latest Comments

  1. Jocelyne says:

    Oh wow, I would have been so scared to see these grizzlies ! Wonderful photos and story Lyle, as always 🙂


  2. Hebrew of Yhwh: stranger, sojourner, son says:

    My nightmares contain bears sometimes. To me these are wild beasts and terrifying.


  3. FeyGirl says:

    Such amazing creatures! How lucky for you to witness such an event; a family together like this (lol, from afar…). Just magnificent!


  4. Phil Lanoue says:

    What an incredibly beautiful setting to see these magnificent animals!
    You gotta be cool as a cucumber to have got these fantastic shots!
    My hands would be shaking and I would have made a wretched mess of the whole thing.
    Anyway great job with these!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I was pretty excited to see all four of those beautiful creatures all in one place. It then becomes a mad scramble to see if I can get a photo and then impatiently waiting for them to get close enough so I can get them all in one photo. Glad you like them.


  5. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    Seeing them gorge on salad reminds me of the Far Side cartoon with the bears eyeing a picnic and one telling the other, “look at these claws and teeth. We aren’t meant to eat berries” in an attempt to eat the people.


  6. idiotphotographer says:

    My happy place involves liver dumpling soup, Apfelkorn, yodeling and polka music with a few beers rather than bears. Still, your happy place here is beautiful and you’ve captured it well. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing grizzlies wild and free, perhaps one day. Until then I’m going to enjoy your images, and thank you for sharing.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Your happy place would certainly be a different world for me and I’m sure they’d vary dramatically with people’s experiences. It would be fascinating to see how you would rank the experience of actually seeing grizzlies in the wild. Until then I am most happy to share and always enjoy your responses.


  7. sagescenery says:

    What a beautiful family!!!


  8. gingeralicia88 says:

    Got to love bears! ❤


  9. Mandy says:

    They look so cuddly!


  10. Ad-libbed says:

    Magnificent shots. I especially love learning a bit about the background of bear 64. I’ve driven through the Bow Valley Parkway numerous times and have seen hundreds of animals, but never really stopped to remember that each one has a story. It’s marvellous she looks so content here.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks. A couple of years ago I started taking note of the different bears and asking park staff about them. After I got these photos I, zoomed in on the ear tag and began connecting the dots. It certainly makes it fascinating when I learn the back stories.


  11. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    Wonderful images. Little ones growing big!


  12. Gunta says:

    Your post (both images and text), along with the article are spot on, as usual! I imagine it’s really difficult to find that right balance between tourists and the wild critters. I have to agree with Simon that there has to be some education and connection for folks to truly appreciate the wilderness. Your post did get me thinking (sometimes a dangerous thing) about my tendency to shy away from places that have become tourist havens. I suppose I didn’t appreciate the benefits that come from more people enjoying the natural wonders we have. Only other solution I can think of is to feed more of the tourists to the bears….. 😀


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I think the greatest challenge with the largest impact is deciding on development since that never goes away. Dealing with folks viewing the wildlife is a lesser challenge.

      Simon’s article helped me gain a new understanding as well. I really don’t like being in crowds especially when I’m trying to see wildlife. My solution is to go to more popular spots in the off season to dramatically cut down the numbers of people. Of course I hadn’t thot of the feeding them to the bears!! Another memorable comment.


  13. Alison says:

    Those sure are some big cubs! I hope that they have better luck than Bear 64’s last litter. Great shots!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It is rather shocking to see such large cubs hanging close to mom but I suppose size doesn’t necessarily match mental capacity or experience. They didn’t wander far from her. Glad you liked them.


  14. Steve Gingold says:

    All great shots, Lyle. Isn’t it nice when the stars align? 🙂


  15. Mind Margins says:

    Interesting article on the bear jams. My daughter was a park ranger in Yellowstone and worked many of the jams. There will always be tourists, and the rangers are there to keep things under control and everyone safe. It’s when the tourists don’t listen and get too close to the bears that things can get out of hand, for both bear and human.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Somewhere between feeding the bears and not allowing anyone to take photos is a reasonable balance in a national park. The closer we get to either extreme, the more trouble will likely follow. While there are still crazy tourists who think these are glorified pets, I am encouraged by the overall progress we’ve made in finding the balance. Like usual, a little respect goes a long way.


  16. Rexlin Victor says:

    Beautiful shots!!!


  17. Michelle at The Green Study says:

    Those are beautiful shots, Lyle. Since I’m not a photographer, I’m curious about what your distance is from the bears. We’re always warned about bears with cubs and I see these amazing shots and wonder about the risk, etc.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Glad you like the shots. There’s no way I’m getting anywhere close to a grizzly or her cubs since the risk is just too high. The missing link is that I have a long telephoto lens with an extender that allows me to be far back, especially when photographing large animals. I really enjoy situations like this when they carry on their activities without any sense of being disturbed.


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