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ICE BEAR



The wait


It all start in November 2019, following a 3 month journey from Vancouver, BC, I end up in the Yukon and stayed more than 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 flats got flooded, all trying 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 at this time.
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.


Later on, in 2022, I went back up there to join the Pete's duo, Mather and Zenkl, with the knowledge of the area, and more prepared gears following ideas that I kept for years. Also Mather found them interresting and rushed to get some on the following day. I also custom build an extra underwater traps for him. 


I had the chance to observe all the local wildlife coming to fest on the salmons.

Unfortunatly, there is always the weather factor. This year, locals where mentioning that the bears had a very good berry season and by mid november, following days of intense snowstorm, bears just called it a year and went away to found a den.


However 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 totally frozen 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.

Always interresting to found that they were very active especially when the temperature were rising slightly while being still negative, it was somehow softening the ice making it easier for digging.


All this end up with an unforgettable experience, awards, and documentary.


If you have the to have a look at Kings of the North by Peter Zenkl for full lenght documentary about the story of Pether Mather chasing them.


This video is from 2019 and show a bit of the place during the few “clear day” that I had.

Early days at camp
The only clear night in 20 days, few upgrade came with time passed there, like the snow wall helping to cut from the wind blowing from north.
Following their way,
spawned out salmon
Grizzly bear track in fresh snow
From all the chanel around, this one will stay ice free for the winter.
Fresh Breakfast
Fresh Breakfast
Early morning, while the river was
Coyote crossing the frozen river, despite their adaption to cold weather, thoses animal can slide like humans will do on ice.
On a stormy day, best shelter around.
Because human are not usually around this area, i was feeling watched all the time.
Who feed on salmon (2)
Who feed on salmon (2)
Not only bears benefits from the salmon run, coyotes and wolves are there to have their part too
Camp from the other side of the main river.
Who feed on salmon (4)
Who feed on salmon (4)
During this journey, i had let my camera very often in front of spawned out salmon or carcass to see who was coming to eat them.
Here was a Whiskey Jack, funny to see this one with a bloody face.
Following the track
Spawn out salmon
Blad eagle take off track, Feet and wing tail
Who feed on salmon (3)
Who feed on salmon (3)
Magpie fest
If the Raven where not there, the Magpie are always first to be there