Category: Black bears

Coast is clear black bear family WM

Two young of year black bears check to make sure the coast is clear before running off to catch up with mom.


Black bear sitting and looking at dandelions WMEven when taking a break from eating, thoughts of fresh dandelions never appears to be far from this bear’s mind!

Not a particularly great photo due to the light and background but seeing bear cubs this small is pretty rare so I had to share. These three scrambled up a steep, rocky hill, using the exposed tree roots to pull themselves up to rejoin their mother feeding on the plants above.  No bigger than a few pounds, they have a lot of growing to do!

This spring has been mainly overcast with lots of rain and cool days which has extended the dandelion season in many areas of Banff National Park.  Here a black bear pauses between dandelions before sticking out its upper lip to pluck off the head of the next flower.  With such a short growing season in the Rockies the bears are in a constant state of looking for and eating as much food as possible. Even then, they typically are much smaller than bears found elsewhere in Alberta and across Canada.

This past weekend in Waterton was unseasonably warm with Saturday above 30 degrees Celsius and little to know wind. Excellent weather for enjoying the park, but I knew that the black bears would be suffering from the high heat and lack of wind and would likely be searching out water to cool off. When I first came across this big male black bear he was busy feeding on berries.  However, after about an hour of being in the direct sunlight he was panting heavily and he kept looking over a small ridge in the direction of a  creek. Within a few minutes he lumbered through the Saskatoon berry bushes, through a small cluster of aspen trees before heading  down the rocky shoreline.  I quickly went to the opposite side of the creek and got into position as he descended the bank.  Without hesitation he walked into the creek and laid down, first on one side and then the other making sure to get as much of his body covered in the cool fast running water.  His panting quickly stopped and for several minutes he just laid in the water…the human equivalent of lounging in the pool with a cold drink in hand!  But a bear in the fall has an insatiable hunger.  They need to eat almost constantly to put on enough weight to survive the winter and so I’m sure his hunger for food quickly overrode his temporary relief from the heat.

Sufficiently cooled off, he makes his way across the creek in search of more food.

Having made his way through the grasslands, his powerful sense of smell lead him to a cluster of berry bushes shaded by the the aspen and poplar forests. The large mountain in the background is Mt. Vimy.

About ten minutes after leaving the big male bear at the base of Mt. Vimy I decided to try my luck at another lake that I have seen black bears swimming in before. Literally within a few minutes of walking along the lake I spotted something swimming on the other side.  From a distance I initially thought it was a beaver because of the distance it was away from the shore and only its head was above the water, but as I got closer and zoomed in with my telephoto lens I realized it was a black bear swimming around the lake!  I couldn’t believe my luck!  It had been 5 years since I last saw a bear in this lake.  I started fumbling with my camera gear hoping that I could capture a few decent photos before she got out of the water. She swam for about 50 meters before she looked in my direction but if she spotted me, she did not care that I was there as she continued along until she reached a shallow point at the tip of the lake.  This photo was taken just prior to that. The dark areas in the water are the shadows cast by the huge pine trees surrounding the lake.

Once she reached the shallow tip of the lake she splashed and rolled around getting her head and ears wet.  I guessed that she would begin to shake her head and so I quickly selected a shutter speed that I hoped would capture the motion of her head shaking and radiating water droplets while keeping her eye in focus. I have been trying for years to get photos of wildlife doing this behaviour but each time I have been a bit off with the shutter speed and aperture with the image either too blurry or too static. This time I got lucky! She turned and faced me before shaking her head back and forth to get the water off her face and ears.  For sure, one of my favourite photos to date.

Still not caring that I was nearby, she rolled around in the shallow water playing with sunken sticks like they were bath toys.  She then lifted up her back feet, laid back and surveyed the lake.  A few moments passed before she decided bath time was over. She casually waded over to the shore, walked up the bank and instead of shaking the water off she just drip dried as she disappeared into the pine forest in search of more berries to eat.  Certainly the best few hours of black bear photography that I have had to date and an experience I won’t forget.


One of my favorite photos from the trip. This little black bear was the last to cross the road after it’s mother and sibling had already made it across. Instead of running into the forest, as soon as it crossed the road it stopped behind the daisies until the mother came back, licked it’s face, made sure that I wasn’t too close and then they wandered off to eat.


This is the sibling of the cub in the first photo.  The mother kept them in the same area near the Waterton town site for several days so I was able to follow them from a safe distance for some time to get these photos. At one point this cub chased a squirrel up and around a tree.

(c) Owen Slater 0402

With the mother already across the road she went up on her back legs to check to see that her cubs were following.  This black bear has her territory surrounding the Waterton townsite and over the course of two days I saw her wandering past the information centre, Prince of Whales hotel and Linnet Lake and she never once approached people despite numerous people getting too close to her on foot.


This large adult male black bear was feeding on the last remaining berries of the season along the roadside in Waterton National Park.


These two black bear cubs climbed up this tree while their mom slept on some of the bigger, stronger branches farther down the tree.  By the time they were done they had broken off most of the branches, which fell down and were eaten by their mother who was woken up by a branch hitting her on the head.