Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Rinse Off Those Paws...

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In the Field

Rinse Off Those Feet Before You Walk On the Deck! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. June 1, 2015.

So just what the heck is this female grizzly doing? Well...that should be obvious - it's laying on its back waving its feet in the air!

OK, OK (smart alec) so WHY is she doing that? that's better question! To be honest, I can't say for sure. But...I do have an educated guess. We saw several female grizzlies doing this during my first of two Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen photo tours in 2015 (and, a few times during my second tour). Each time it was immediately after mating with a male, or at least immediately after we think the female was mating (a few times the bears were just out of sight when we thought they were mating). seems to be a post-copulatory behavior by females. Interestingly, female domestic cats (and possibly wild ones too, but I can't vouch for that) do this immediately after copulation - and it's thought to be a way to increase the probability of their eggs being fertilized. In scanning several online sources of information about bear mating I could find no reference to bears doing it (or if it was for the same reason as in cats)...but for now I'll consider it the leading candidate as an explanation. Or, I suppose, maybe she's just having some fun!

What's with the title? Well...the FULL title of this image is "Rinse Off Those Paws Before You Walk On The Deck!"...and it's a playful tribute to Jenn of Ocean Light II Adventures. I use Ocean Light II Adventures as the outfitter for all my coastal BC photo tours, and Jenn happens to be the owner of the company and, besides the skipper and bear guide (who are one and the same), Jenn's the ENTIRE crew of the 71-foot sailboat we use as our floating basecamp! And, while we're out "playing" with the bears she's working her butt off to ensure that when we get back we have a clean boat, hearty and healthy food, and an overall great experience. Turns out Jenn is good at guessing when we might happen to venture onto shore and might come back with real muddy feet. The first hint for us to not DARE walk on the deck of the boat with dirty feet is a water-filled plastic bin at the top of the ladder leading from the Zodiac on to the deck of the boat! Seeing this bear's filthy feet made me chuckle as I envisioned Jenn intercepting the bear as it tried to get on the deck without rinsing those paws off! I pity the bear! ;-)

As a quick aside, if you're keen to head into the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary to watch or photograph the grizzlies and you can't make it onto one of my photo tours, Jenn is the person to contact! Jenn and Ocean Light II Adventures offer 3-day trips into the Khutzeymateen in each May and June - contact her at: (or check out the details of Ocean Light II's Khuytzeymateen trips right here...

I captured this image using Sigma's relatively new Sport model of the 150-600mm zoom (mounted on a Nikon D4s). The image was shot hand-held while standing in a moving Zodiac and at the extreme long end of the focal range of the lens (600mm). This is the type of shot (under the type of shooting conditions I often face) that convinced me the Sigma ultra-zoom was a keeper. While under highly controlled conditions I have found ways to get slightly sharper shots at 600mm using other lenses (e.g., the Nikkor 600mm f4 VR lens), but if I'm being completely honest I don't think I could have found another way to shoot THIS shot (at 600mm) and get better results. For that matter, I don't mind going on record saying that I can think of no way I could get results this good (under the conditions I had to deal with here) with any other 600mm lens "solution", including my 600mm f4 VR Nikkor (if we were motionless in calm water and I could rest my 600mm f4 VR on the pontoon and no one in the boat moved then PERHAPS I could have matched the quality of this shot, but NOT when motoring at the subject in choppy way, no how...).

For those wanting a better look at this cute (but not-so-little) female bruin, here's a 2400-pixel version for your perusal:

Rinse Off Those Feet Before You Walk On the Deck! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.8 MB)


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 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 (including vocalizations).

3. This image was captured during one of my two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2015. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

Rinse Off Those Feet Before You Walk On the Deck! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. June 1, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2500.

Nikon D4s paired with Sigma Sport 150-600mm zoom @ 600mm - hand-held from motoring Zodiac. Optical Stabilization (OS) on and in OS1 mode.

1/640s @ f8; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting

At the Computer

Rinse Off Those Feet Before You Walk On the Deck! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. June 1, 2015.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Two raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with differences in shadow retrieval and noise reduction settings between variants.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the two output files from the raw converter, minor selective exposure adjustments, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Rinse Off Those Feet Before You Walk On the Deck! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. June 1, 2015.

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 this bear resides in BC, there's a very real chance that his life will be ended by a bullet. And, his heads will be cut off (leaving his 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 this fearsome beast).

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