In late 2019, i had the chance to photograph and observe those bear
freezing up as the temperature dropped
In November 2019, I stayed 20 days living in a hut that I build to observe Ice Bear.
Due to some infiltration of temperate water from underground, there is a channel who won’t freeze. Chum Salmon come to use it to spawn during their late and exhausting journey. Grizzly, wolves and other predators will come there to feed on them.
Despite my experience travelling in cold place in a middle of the winter, this have been a tough one.
At the edge of the big freeze with temperature oscillating from +6 to -30, Downstream lakes, ice is flowing everywhere, water level rise, dry area got flooded, all try to get settle for the winter.
To me it was about taking a new path almost everyday to access and cross the river, founding new filled creek from a day to another, trying to found ice bridge, breaking the ice when it was to thin to hold, crossing hip height in freezing water or just having a leg passing through resulting in passing hours at camp to dry soacked freezing clothes and boots while time of daylight were shrinking everyday, loosing time to shoot.
I walked more than 300km along the journey cross crossing my path and exploring the area, looking for tracks, trying to observe anything else as I couldn’t see the bear who were getting back feeding to the creek only at night.
To get some shot I had to work with different photographic techniques than using a telelens like I m use to and use camera trap. By analyzing daily fresh tracks or kills found along the creek, following their path, checking where they enter in a creek, I could move daily all traps according to my observations to maximize chance to get them.
Every morning could be a good or bad surprise, sometimes you get some shots, bad or good, sometimes you found your gear bloody or sinking in a middle of the creek... Anyhow some could call this journey “a frustrating fail” as no real sight of the wishes animal have occurred, even if I could hear them or see their tracks every day. However the learning taking out this experience was priceless, from increasing knowledge in living out of the grid, to expend photography skills.
In 2022, i went back up there, with the knowledge of the area, and more prepared gear.
I had the chance to observe all the local wildlife coming to fest on the salmons.
Unfortunatly, their is always the weather factor. This year, the bears had a very good berry season and following days of intense snowstorm, they just called it a year and went to found a den.
However little birds, lynx and wolves were still present. I ve been surprised to see how the pack was staying there after most salmon spawned out, and the lake were freezing.
Freezing but actually keeping the trapped carcass of fish in the ice. The wolves knew it, and were just having to dig the ice to eat. In my observation i found them very active especially when the temperature were rising slightly while being still negative, it was somehow softening the ice making it easier for digging.
This video is from 2019 and show a bit of the place during the few “clear day” that I had.