Kodiak Brown Bears captured by Z 8 / Z600f4 w/Z1.4x

The drama unfolding on the bluff a half mile away was unknowns to us at first. We were with a couple of Kodiak Browns on the flats in front of us, 180 degrees from the bluff. Eagle Eye Chris, one of the best guides, period, spotted the mom and three cubs on the bluff and the giant 1200lbs male above them and made us aware of the drama unfolding. You look very closely, you can see the three, two year old cubs clinging on for dear life below the edge of the cliff in the brambles. Between them and the big male is mom, a great mom doing what they have done since the beginning of time, defend their young.

The males try to kill the young for one reason, the birds and the bees! Mom goes into estrus right after they loose their cubs and the males know that. It’s really that simple! In the video above you will see mom charge up that slope, and it’s quite a steep face, and challenge the male three times. You’ll see her smack that giant three times in the head, full force. And you’ll see the male shake it off as if to say, “That’s the best you’ve got?” Then the male will go off and scratch its back and finally wonder off. In the end, the cubs come up and curl up with mom and finally nurse. All of this transpired over about a half an hour, at least what we witnessed.

On the photographic side, I was shooting with the Z 8 / Z600f4 w/Z1.4x when I first swung 180 degrees to see the drama. The action was unfolding fast and while I would have loved to shoot it all as a video, I didn’t have the time to make the changes in the begining so I went to DX crop shooting at an effective focal length of 1762mm and as the action unfolded, I simply depressed the shutter release and never let up until the moment had passed. I then brought the 318 frames into Premiere via PhotoMechanic. PhotoMechanic converted the Nefs to Jpegs and Premiere turned the Jpegs into a video.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my lifetime to witness much of the big bears biology but this was the first “long defense” of young I’ve seen and been able to photograph. It’s something I will never forget and a constant reminder to me that the world can be tough!

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