Every Friday I will be posting a Photo of the Week. Here I’ll be sharing the details on how I got the shot, where I was, and the backstory that went into it. I hope you find this enjoyable, and helpful in your own photography.
Yup, that is a full grown, 1,200 pound grizzly bear and his name is Sam. On our road trip to Banff this summer, we made the stop in West Yellowstone. It was a logical place to stop for the night after driving 5hrs, but we had something we wanted to see there before we headed north to the next destination. We wanted to check out the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. A year ago we saw a video about how your YETI cooler got that little, “Bear Proof” sticker on its side. Well, this is the place they put those coolers and containers to the test.
After walking through the information center, seeing some interesting facts about Grizzly Bears, we wandered over to their exhibit and saw two massive bears playing with each other. Shortly after, we were able to watch this bear, Sam, come out for his morning feeding. While being completely captivated by his size and stature, I couldn’t help but feel sad. These were captive animals that are here for the entertainment and education of humans. They were not grizzlies out in the wild that I was encountering, they were caged animals. It’s a tough idea to come to grips with, that if I wasn’t a paying customer, these animals wouldn’t be here. It’s a glorified zoo.
At the same time, I understand that these animals were removed from the wild because they became too comfortable around humans and associating humans with a food source. The ethics of that are beyond my ability to debate, but the standard protocol is to have those animals killed so that humans are protected. I don’t live in bear country, and do not have to deal with those issues often, but it’s hard to come to grips with that fact that those are the only two options.
But, the flip-side is this is a place for people, like myself, to learn about grizzly bears in a safe environment. It is through these educational places that we can understand how to better live alongside of grizzlies and less of an us-vs-them kind of existence. The staff explained how to properly keep a campsite clean and what to do if you come into contact with a bear in the wild. At the end of the day, I wasn’t there to learn. We came because we wanted to see a grizzly bear up close, without the dangers of running into one in the wild. Luckily, our trip was bear encounter-free while hiking.
Here is Sam’s Story:
Sam was placed in captivity as a young cub after his mother disappeared in Alaska. He wandered in to a fishing village where people (young and old) began hand-feeding him, becoming quite the attraction and a dangerous situation. Without a mother to care for him and becoming habituated to human food, he had to be placed in captivity and arrived at the Center in 1996. Being from the coastline of Alaska, he is very large – weighing approximately 1050 pounds.
Here is the video I was talking about where they did the cooler testing