As a life-long Alaskan, Katmai National Park has always held a magical place in my heart. It was a land of volcanoes, bears, salmon, and green mountains plunging towards the sea. This summer, I had the opportunity to make my dream a reality with Nat Hab’s Great Alaskan Grizzly Encounter. While each and every day of the trip was filled with amazing scenery and beautiful coastal brown bears, one particular day stands out.
While taking our morning skiff ride to set up our bear viewing spot in Geographic Harbor, one guest noticed a small grey dot walking along the coast. Our guide, Drew Hamilton, pulled out his binoculars and confirmed that it was a wolf heading toward our anticipated spot. We continued to watch the wolf as we waded on to shore. It kept coming and our excitement grew. As we sat our buckets down, we lost sight of it in the tall grass and guessed that we probably wouldn’t see it again. The group’s feeling at that point was that we were happy to have seen the wolf, even from a distance.
As we sat on the gravel island between the branches of the stream, bears began appearing. It is a truly amazing experience to sit quietly as these gorgeous animals go about their daily fishing all around you. Our favorite bear, Lazy Larry, a large almost calico colored male, was successfully catching salmon as we watched. Larry was an older and larger bear than most we had seen, and he was quite successful at pulling large fish out of the water. And while we had our attention turned on Larry, the wolf popped out of the tall grass.
The wolf looked up and down the banks of the river and proceeded to lie down in the main bear path on the bank across from our group. It’s sandy blond coloring stood out among the tall, green grass and fuchsia fireweed flowers. We were transfixed. The interaction between the wolf and the bears was fascinating to watch. As some bears approached, the wolf would get up and walk back in to the grass until the bears had passed. Other bears would take a wide berth around where the wolf was lying. Occasionally, the wolf would dive in the water to try its luck at salmon fishing. The wolf stayed in that same spot for hours. To watch the interplay between a wolf and bears while sitting on the shores of Katmai National Park was truly a privilege I will never forget.
By Stephanie Lee, WWF