Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Photographer's Journal: Bear Encounter!

Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)

Let me tell you, this was one of my most exciting moments as a photographer!

I drove slowly down a gravel road through acres and acres of corn, cotton and soybeans toward the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge. At one point I slowed to a crawl where a tree line bordering a drainage ditch intersected the road. I was looking for wildflowers in the ditch.

As I eased across the bridge over the drainage ditch and past the end of the tree line, a field of soybeans opened out to my right. Instantly I saw a dark blob with big rounded ears pointed at me on the edge of the field. I stopped and grabbed my camera with the 70-210 zoom already in place. Yes! It was a bear.

I fired off a couple of frames from a distance through my ultra-dusty windshield just to make sure I had proof of this momentous encounter. Then I eased closer. The bear went back to ripping down and eating tendrils of greenery. I stopped again, ran my windshield washer briefly and fired off a couple more frames through my not-quite-so-dirty windshield.

Then I eased my foot of the brake and rolled silently forward until I could power down the passenger side window. The bear looked my direction momentarily, then moved closer along the edge of the field. The first couple of frames I got through the open window are broadsides with the bear's head turned away feeding.

Then the bear sort of hunkered down at the edge of the field and I could see less of the body but it looked my way and put it's nose in the air. It did not occur to me immediately what was going on, but it should have because I have seen deer do this!

Three times the bear sniffed the air and three times I clicked. This is the third and the best. And at just that moment I realized that I had left my AC fan on--it was a blistering hot day. And the AC fan was blowing my scent out that open window. A split second after this shot, the bear got a good whiff and bolted into the field.

Louisiana Black Bear is on the threatened species list. The largest population in Louisiana is at the Tensas NWR.