Enjoying a healthy snack after a long winter’s nap
Kananaskis Country, a park system situated to the west of Calgary, is well known for its population of grizzly and black bears, as well as many other wildlife species. It’s a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and I visit the area whenever possible looking for wildlife to photograph.
On one lovely spring day, with new plant growth showing along the shoulders of a high mountain road, I snapped a photo of a young grizzly who had found abundant grass and dandelions for a fulfilling meal (above).
In early spring, a grizzly’s diet is primarily vegetarian and consists of grass, roots and emerging tree buds and leaves.
In summer and fall, grizzlies revert to an omnivorous diet, which can include the young of elk and deer, as well as ants, termites, various insects and small mammals. They will also eat carrion and roadkill, often becoming very aggressive when protecting a major food source or feeding area.
By late fall, this young bear will eat a large amount of wild berries in order to build up body fat for its winter sleep. Berries are predominantly found in the lower parkland terrain, areas that are frequented by hikers and bikers.
Bears do not like sharing these feeding areas with humans, which results in wildlife control officers annually closing trails and recreation areas.
Winter fur is still thick on this fellow; it’s so dense that you can’t spot the GPS tracking collar attached to its neck. Studies are currently being conducted regarding the interaction between Alberta wildlife and humans. There is concern about contact between bears and humans, due to the bears feeding in locations popular with campers and hikers.
In summer, bears prefer feeding in gully bottoms, wet meadows, fields and on roadsides. People should be extremely cautious in these areas, make lots of noise if travelling through them and carry a canister of pepper spray. An even better idea is to try and avoid these areas entirely if visibility is poor. Besides being fortunate enough to encounter grizzly and black bears, I’ve come across bighorn sheep and elk, as well as mule and whitetail deer. I’ve also photographed smaller mammals such as foxes, coyotes, porcupines, waterfowl and raptors.
As a photographer, I’ve found that early morning and dusk are the best times to observe wildlife, and the scenic landscapes in Kananaskis are spectacular. I use a digital camera with a zoom lens that allows for panoramic shots and close-ups.
It’s safest to take photographs from a car window if you are close to bears or mammals with their young. Trying to get close to wild animals to obtain a cell phone image is dangerous; enjoy them from a safe distance.