Being close enough to view a grizzly bear in the wild inspires feelings of awe and nostalgia: wonder at their size and power, and a longing for an America that once was—when the land was wild and pristine, and we newcomers were still adventurers exploring something big and far beyond anything else we had ever known. It’s hard to come by that feeling in any other way today, and that’s why we need grizzlies more than ever.
Because bears and humans share a similar omnivorous diet, we tend to want to live in the same places. Unfortunately, that didn’t bode well for the bears. Ursus arctos once lived in much of western North America, from Alaska to Mexico and from California to Ohio. Between 1850 and 1920, however, during the time of European settlement, we eliminated grizzly bears from 95 percent of their original range. Unregulated killing of grizzly bears continued in most places through the 1950s, resulting in a further 52 percent decline in their territories between 1920 and 1970.
Now, there are less than 1,500 grizzlies left in the United States south of Canada. Luckily, there are still about 31,000 roaming the wilds of Alaska, and the adventurer in us all longs—and I would argue, needs—to safely and respectfully see them.
I saw my first wild grizzly bear in 2005 in British Columbia. After that, I knew that that one experience just couldn’t be my last. So I sought them out again in British Columbia in 2009, and in Alaska in 2006 and 2013. Below are some photos from my grizzly bear travels over those years.
Today, grizzly bears are symbols of wild America and the freedom we as a people treasure. And once the majority of us realize how essential they are to our identity as a nation, perhaps they will also become icons of understanding.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
A multiple award-winning author and writer specializing in nature-travel topics and environmental issues, Candice has traveled around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and from New Zealand to Scotland's far northern, remote regions. Her assignments have been equally diverse, from covering Alaska’s Yukon Quest dogsled race to writing a history of the Galapagos Islands to describing and photographing the national snow-sculpting competition in her home state of Wisconsin.In addition to being a five-time book author, Candice's work has also appeared in several national and international publications, such as "The Huffington Post" and "Outside Magazine Online." To read her web columns and see samples of her nature photography, visit her website at www.candiceandrews.com and like her Nature Traveler Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naturetraveler.
Good Nature is the official nature and adventure travel blog of Natural Habitat Adventures & WWF. We feature reports from the field, news about the natural world and thoughts from our accomplished writers and staff.