A black bear gazes longingly at pine cones just out of reach high in a tree on a rainy fall evening at Yellowstone in 2006. I felt for her, trying to fatten up as much as she could for the long Wyoming winter but not wanting to risk injury and condemning not just herself but also her two young cubs. She and the cubs all made it down safely after eating the seeds in the cones, one cub in particular eating its fill.
Two black bear cubs follow their mother (she’s just out of frame to the right) up a hill in Yellowstone National Park in October 2006. She was very protective of these two, when another adult bear came wandering by she sent them scurrying up a tree without waiting to see if the other bear meant trouble (it didn’t). The cubs were still quite small compared to an adult but were much heavier than they would have been in the spring, a necessity for the winter that arrives early in Yellowstone.
There have been multiple generations of Rosies in Yellowstone, a name given to a line of female bears that has stayed near the Roosevelt area. According to a park ranger on my fall visit in 2006, the previous Rosie didn’t appear to have survived the winter, she had lost a lot of fur before she hibernated. The new Rosie was a fine mother, looking carefully after her two cubs (who were following her just out of frame). She’d been tagged in her ears to help identify her, although its hard to tell in this picture since it matches the bits of brown leaves in her fur. The picture was a bit of a nod to wildlife photographer Nick Nichols, whose work in National Geographic inspired me. The light was low and the bear moving, so I tried to capture the movement with a low shutter speed and panning with the bear instead of trying to go for sharpness and freezing its motion. A technique Nick did well but I did not, but I still enjoyed the moment.
My last day in Yellowstone had been wonderful, but I was hiking down from Mount Washburn on my last hike of the day and would soon leave for home. I stopped in my tracks when I heard a sharp noise to my left and was rather surprised to see a black bear eating seeds from pine cones in the tree beside the trail. The tree was on a steep hillside so even though the bear was at the top of the tree, we were almost at eye level. I made enough noise to be sure it knew I was there, but it didn’t pay me much heed as it tried to eat as many seeds as it could without moving from its perch in the tree. It would snap branches to bring pine cones closer if need be, or just stretch way over as it did here, all surprisingly at ease for a creature so large on branches so thin.