Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
C'mon Mom - Sharesies?

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In the Field

C'mon Mom - Sharesies? Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 3, 2016.

While this one is not even close to being one of my "technically" best shots from 2016, it does bring back memories to me of the one of my most amazing bear experiences of the year. This female grizzly has her own very unique way of fishing - and it involves swimming into a deep pool with her head submerged and looking below for fish (often with her cubs swimming right alongside her, as they are here). Once Ma sees a fish deep in the pool her butt comes up for just a second, and then ALL of her disappears below the surface as she does a deep dive and goes for the fish. Almost surprisingly, this technique seems to work pretty well...and often she comes to the surface with a very live and struggling salmon in her mouth (just like you're seeing here).

And the cubs - why the heck did they come into the water? Well...they want a part of that big fish too! At the time I shot this image the cub on the left side had just figured out we were watching and was giving us a watchful eye. But the other cub (partially hidden at the back here) lunged at the fish just a second later and sunk HER jaws into it too. The resulting struggle and splash-fest was just hilarious to watch, and I recall wondering if anyone was going to drown (and if the still very alive fish was going to escape). Eventually the sequence ended when mom came bursting out of the water (with the fish still in her jaws) and sprinted into the surrounding forest (with both cubs HOT on her heels!). We then lost sight of the bears, but heard a LOT of grumbling and growling and crunching noises over the next 10 minutes or so as mom chowed down (while, presumably, both cubs stole as many bites of fish as they could).

The relationship between a female bear and her cubs is complex and ever-changing. When the cubs are very young and feeding mainly by nursing on mom they are almost continuously touching and "cuddling up" together and their relationship is amazingly affectionate. But...as the cubs get bigger and begin feeding on solid food they slowly start to become a bit of a pain the butt for Ma! By the cubs' third year (when most grizzly cubs are weaned) many become amazingly effective kleptoparasites...and they can drive mom to near distraction as they figure out it's WAY easier to steal her food rather than find their own! Of course, a little tough love (often in the form of a very firm swat with a paw) can temporarily remedy her problem! Watching the 3-year evolution of the family relationship from affectionate to "almost" adversarial (which I'm sure many human parents can relate to!) is one of nature's spectacles I've been privileged to watch several times now. It's an experience that every wildlife-lover should add to their bucket list! ;-)

I captured this image during my 2016 Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku photo tour. On this tour we work with grizzlies in an extremely remote part of northern BC up near the Yukon border that's only accessible by helicopter. At the time of this writing (March 27, 2017) we still have a three spots left on this amazing trip that takes place in early August. For a LOT more information about this once-in-a-lifetime trip, either download this PDF Brochure (2.5 MB) or contact me at seminars@naturalart.ca.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this family affair...

C'mon Mom - Sharesies? Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.40 MB)

And, in this next shot Junior takes an impromptu bite...

Mind If I Join In Mom? Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.25 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

1. This image - in all resolutions - is protected by copyright. I'm fine with personal uses of them (including use as desktop backgrounds or screensavers on your own computer), but unauthorized commercial use of the image is prohibited by law. Thanks in advance for respecting my copyright!

2. Like all wildlife images on this website, the subject(s) is/are fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my/our presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

C'mon Mom - Sharesies? Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 3, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 3200.

Nikon D5 paired with Sigma 150-600mm Sport zoom lens @ 420mm. Hand-held. OS on and in "OS 1" mode.

1/400s @ f8; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

C'mon Mom - Sharesies? Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 3, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.85 stop total difference between the variants), shadow recovery, highlight retrieval, and noise reduction settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2017 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, minor saturation adjustment, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.

Conservation

C'mon Mom - Sharesies? Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 3, 2016.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to Raincoast*.

Species Status in Canada**: Special Concern (May 2002).

While Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) are not technically listed as "Endangered" in Canada, they have been extirpated from most of their historical range. Grizzly Bears are far more sensitive to intrusion/disturbance in their habitat than are Black Bears and are being increasingly forced into marginal habitat by human encroachment. The Great Bear Rainforest along the central and northern coast of British Columbia is one of the last strongholds of the Grizzly Bear in Canada, and even this population is coming under increasing pressure.

Sadly, because these bears reside in BC, there's a very real chance that their lives will be ended by a bullet. And, their heads and paws will be cut off (leaving their carcasses to simply rot) so that they can be mounted and adorn the wall of some fearless trophy hunter (who will, no doubt, be cheered on by all the grasses, sedges and clams that will be saved from being so mercilessly eaten by these fearsome beasts).

The debate about the trophy hunting of carnivores can be broken into 3 arguments: the ethical, the economic, and the ecological. The ethical argument for the trophy hunting of grizzlies in BC? On that one - just go back and look at this image and read the paragraph immediately above. The economic argument? Well, it's on even shakier grounds - not only does bear-watching in BC generate 11-15 times as much revenue as bear hunting (and employ 10-15 times as many people), but the revenue generated by bear hunting doesn't even cover the cost to the BC Gov't of managing the hunt itself - it's a net loss to the taxpayers of BC (all studies related to these economic claims can be supplied on request). The ecological argument? Yep, you guessed right - there isn't one. As a matter of fact, an increasing body of sound, peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown how the guild of carnivores at the TOP of the food chain are exceptionally important to the overall health of ecosystems - everything from ensuring continued biodiversity through to maximizing that amount of carbon dioxide the ecosystem can absorb (climate change consequences, anyone?).

So why does the trophy hunting of carnivores (and bears in particular) continue to exist in BC? Good question. Well, it sure isn't because of public support - just under 90% of British Columbians are against it. And many First Nations have banned it in their territories. Sadly, it appears that little more than the fact that a handful of elected officials (MLA's) in a few rural ridings fear the backlash from voters if they stand against trophy hunting is keeping trophy hunting alive.

Those wishing to get active in helping to stop the trophy hunting of carnivores in BC are encouraged to visit this page on Raincoast's website. And please help spread the word!

*The Raincoast Conservation Society (and Foundation) is an effective and efficient organization that has been fighting for protection of this unique habitat. If you are looking for a meaningful way to contribute to the conservation of this amazing ecosystem, Raincoast will provide maximal "bang" for your conservation dollars.

**as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada