Last August, my partner and I went to spend a week on the Southeast Alaskan coast in Hyder. The main purpose of the trip was to watch the bears fishing on salmon in Fish Creek and maybe if we are lucky enough have a glimpse of the coastal wolf. It took us almost two days to drive down there by the Stewart-Cassiar Highway from Whitehorse, including all the breaks along the way to capture some memories.
Silhouette of a Grizzly Bear catching a salmon at twilight. Canon EOS 5D MK II + Canon 500mm f/4 IS USM
Our week spent in Hyder (Alaska) and Stewart (British Columbia) was pretty good, we had a bit of cloud cover and sprinkles but not the usual rain of Southeast Alaska. A third of our time was consumed at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site waiting for a bear to show up. The facilities in place are managed by the US Forest Service and consist of a long viewing deck overlooking a part of Fish Creek. Having the habit of usually be just by myself when out in the wild photographing the wildlife, there was no other choices than to be part of the crowd this time. So, not the best experience of my life, but at least now I know that I won’t go back there for bear watching. Finally, we didn’t see many bears, just four in five days, and most of them late in the evening when the light was gone. Fortunately, the sceneries of the surrounding area were fantastic, we enjoyed the rest of our time photographing the landscape, specially mountains and glaciers.
Grizzly Bear fishing on salmon at twilight. Canon EOS 5D MK II + Canon 500mm f/4 IS USM
Grizzly bear feasting on salmon. Canon EOS 5D MK II + Canon 500mm f/4 IS USM
Grizzly Bear shaking water off in the blue lagoon. Canon EOS 5D MK II + Canon 500mm f/4 IS USM
After some hours waiting on the site, we finally got the chance to see a coastal wolf visiting briefly the creek to fish on salmon before heading back into the coastal forest.
Coastal Wolf in Fish Creek. Canon EOS 5D MK II + Canon 500mm f/4 IS USM + Canon Extender 1.4x
I am pleased to announce that one of my image of a Yukon Black Wolf has just been nominated in the 2014 International Wildlife and Nature Photography Festival of Montier-en-Der (France). Final results of the photo competition will be announced next November during the festival.
See the results on the festival’s website: www.festiphoto-montier.org
The Fortymile Caribou Herd hasn’t been seen in its past stomping grounds of the Yukon Territory for decades. Seeing them this winter in the Tombstone Territorial Park was a very encouraging news for the herd. Historically, the Fortymile Caribou Herd is most noted for its extreme decline in numbers. The estimated herd numbers declined from about 260,000 caribou in the early 1920s to 6,000 in 1973. The herd now reaches about 50,000 members again and continues to expand into the Yukon.
Here are a selection of pictures of the Fortymile Caribou Herd grazing in the Tombstone Territorial Park from this past winter:
Forty Mile Caribou Herd grazing in the Tombstone Territorial Park
A scenic view of Tombstone Territorial Park in winter
A Barren-ground bull caribou walking ahead of the rest of the group in the subarctic tundra.
When caribou are moving along and one is alarmed, it rears up on its hind feet, whirls about, and dashes off. When a caribou does this, scent from the interdigital gland is deposited on the ground. Every caribou that comes to the spot will sniff the scent and then became excited and alarmed.
Barren-ground Caribou from the Forty Mile Herd
Forty Mile Caribou Herd in the Tombstone mountain range
Forty Mile Caribou Herd in the wide open valley of the Blackstone River
A young bull caribou walking on the blue ice of a frozen lake
Caribou in the sunset light
After almost 6 years in the Yukon, I encountered wolves only two or three times and always very far in the distance, without being able to capture these precious moments. Two weeks ago, I finally got my chance to photograph a beautiful Yukon Wolf for around 10 minutes and almost too close to take pictures with my 500mm lens! What a magical moment that was!
Yukon Black Wolf — Yukon Territory, Canada
The Yukon Wolf (Canis lupus pambasileus), also known as the Alaskan Wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf. It’s among the few wolves in the world that still live in a natural ecosystem, that includes other large predators and prey species. Yukon wolves are the key predator controlling and keeping Yukon moose and caribou populations in check over the territory.
Yukon Black Wolf moving cautiously on the snow — Yukon Territory, Canada
Yukon Black Wolf — Yukon Territory, Canada
Last month I went canoeing with a friend the Eagle, Bell and Porcupine rivers from Eagle Plains to Old Crow in the Northern Yukon Territory. This was our first canoe trip in total autonomy in the remote wilderness and it went really well! We paddle 380km of rivers north of the Arctic Circle in 10 days. The principal goal of the expedition was to observe the fall migration of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, which is the 5th largest herd of migratory caribou in North America. The herd’s total home range is approximately 260,000 km2, between Kaktovik, Alaska to Aklavik, NWT to Dawson City, Yukon.
Bell River (Yukon Territory, Canada)
The expedition was a formative experience for both of us as we became part of the rivers that we paddled for a short time. That was also a success! After 7 days of paddling through the pristine wilderness of the Eagle and Bell rivers, we finally found hundreds of caribou on the banks of the Porcupine River.
Porcupine Caribou herd swimming across the Porcupine River during their annual fall migration in the Old Crow area in the northern Yukon.
To see more pictures of the caribou migration, please visit my Portfolio.