Wildlife Photography Workshops in Canada - Part One

We have listed a significant amount of wildlife workshops in Canada that are designed with the photographer in mind.

From bears, to whales, loons and gannets, we have compiled a photo workshop or tour for everyone’s wildlife bucket list trip behind the camera.  

Today I want to focus on the bear workshops and tours we are leading in Canada. The Species we are focusing on in 2016 and 2017 are the following:

Grizzly Bear - Grizzly Bear (scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis), sometimes called the Silvertip Bear, is a subspecies of the brown bear living in North America.

Roaming the North American continent for the past million years, the grizzly bear has managed to outlive both the saber-toothed tiger and the mastodon.

As major targets of human hunters, however, the tens of thousands of grizzlies that once inhabited the Great Plains and the Rockies and Sierras of the American West have been reduced to a fraction of their former numbers.

Today, most grizzlies live in Alaska and Canada. Probably fewer than a thousand remain in the 48 contiguous states, and those bears are found almost exclusively in some 10 million acres of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Did you know the term "grizzly" refers to the white-tipped hairs that give it a frosty grizzled appearance, particularly those of the Rocky Mountains, and colors can range from a grayish color through yellow-brown to a dark-brown or nearly black coloration. The color depends largely on the grizzly bear habitat and also on the indigenous climate.

The size of grizzly bears decreases generally from the north to the south, ranging from up to 680 kilograms in the north to 80 to 200 kilograms in the south of the country.

The grizzly bear male is on average 1.8 times heavier than the female. Despite its massive figure he can run with a speed of over 60 km/h. The forelegs and the shoulders of the grizzly are particularly massive and powerful, enabling him to dig and to climb. Grizzly bears climb trees to find honey and are accomplished swimmers.

They use their claws and powerful jaws to fight, catch their food and to mark their territory on the trunks of trees. A grizzly's sense of smell is well developed, and its life expectancy is around 30 years.

The grizzly bear accumulates 200 kg of fat in order to survive the harsh winters of its habitat in a state of lethargy which is not, however, a real hibernation. The grizzly bear is omnivorous, eating anything from fish, honey and ants to beached whales. They also feed on dead game and other carrion. On rare occasions they kill elk and dig out ground squirrels and foxes.

Nevertheless, 90% of its diet is vegetarian. The grizzly bear is normally a solitary animal buts gets together with other bears along the banks of fast-flowing streams and rivers during the salmon breeding period when the fish are going upriver to spawn… and that is when we go photograph them.

In 2016 we are headed to northern BC to photograph inland Grizzly feeding on salmon on the following workshops.

July 2016 - http://northof49photography.com/fly-in-grizzly-bear-photo-tour

August 2016 - http://northof49photography.com/august-fly-in-grizzly-bear-photo-tour

In 2017 we are headed to northern BC to photograph inland Grizzly feeding on salmon on the following workshops.

August 2017 – Details available shortly. But this trip is a 10 day and 9 night nature adventure is perfect for any wildlife and nature enthusiast! Our destination, a remote bear camp only accessible by helicopter deep inside the BC wilderness. From there we head north for to photograph the northern lights in the Yukon. Please contact us to go on a waiting list. http://northof49photography.com/contact-us/

Black Bear - Black bears move in response to the seasonal availability of food and have excellent memories, particularly regarding food sources. Bears are able to learn about food types and locations, and reapply that knowledge over time and space – a sure sign of intelligence.

Black bears can run 30 to 35 mph and, contrary to some myths, can easily run up and down hill.

Black bears have good eyesight, but don’t discern the yellow-red-orange color spectrum as well as humans. They also have exceptional hearing. Their sense of smell is unparalleled – more than seven times greater than a dog, particularly for food-related scents. Black bear habitat is primarily forests, forest edges and forest clearings.  Reflecting this, their shorter curved and sharp claws evolved for climbing trees which they do to escapepredators, find food, sleep and rest.  They also are excellent for shredding and taking apart decaying snags and downed logs in order to reach insects, insect colonies and even amphibians and small mammals which live and find refuge in decaying wood.  In contrast, grizzly bear claws are much longer, more blunt and are used primarily for excavating food from their preferred open country and high mountain meadow habitats. Grizzly bears, although not adapted primarily for tree-climbing, can still climb any tree you can climb!

Black bear females do not reproduce until they are three to five years old but some may be as old as seven when they first produce young. Females normally breed every other year and have an average of two cubs, but can have one to five. Cub mortality is high, with an average of 50 percent dying in their first year due to natural causes. The female has 6 nipples, but often only two primary teats produce milk that is exceptionally high in fat, hence the cubs’ rapid growth.

Females conceive during the summer (mid June to July in Washington) and overall gestation time is 7 to 7 1/2months. However, impregnated females go through a process called delayed implantation so actual embryo development does not begin until November or December.  Cubs are born two months later, in January or February weighing just225 to 330 grams (1/2 to 3/4 pounds) and measuring about 8 inches long. The cubs are blind and deaf, have poorly developed hindquarters, and are covered with fine down-like hair. They suckle frequently from the female in the den and emerge with her in the spring. They remain with the female for 16 to 18 months during which time she teaches them everything they need to know to survive.

Female black bears do not mate while rearing young, so may only produce six litters in her lifetime.

The average lifespan of a black bear can be up to 18 years, and the oldest documented wild bear lived to 31. During their lives black bears can suffer from arthritis, cavities, fractures from falls, broken and worn teeth, bites from other animals and gun shots.

Black bears are in the taxonomic Order Carnivora, but their diet is omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Approximately eighty to eight-five percent of a black bear’s typical diet is plant material, while the remaining 15% is made up of animal protein. Black bears will eat almost anything, such as grubs from a bumblebee nest, bird eggs, ants, voles, grasses and berries.

Black bears are also opportunistic, meaning they take advantage of whatever is available.  They will occasionally eat carrion when available and will hunt and kill their own prey including calves of elk, moose and deer. They also scavenge meat from winter-killed animals, dig for rodents, and eat termites, ants, grubs and other insects.

A bear’s diet changes seasonally. In spring, bears eat the tender emerging shoots of sedges, grasses, cow parsnip, leaf buds and skunk cabbage. Although their diet is omnivorous and their digestive system is much more robust than ours, bears still have the digestive system of a carnivore so cannot digest firm plant cellulose well. They target many plants in the spring when young shoots are most digestible and nutritious.

In 2016 we are headed to British Columbia to photograph black bear as they feed at low tide along the BC coastal waters on the following trips.

August 2016 - http://northof49photography.com/vancouver-island-workshop

In 2017 we are headed to British Columbia to photograph black bear as they feed at low tide along the BC coastal waters on the following trips.

August 2017 – If you want to join us as we travel to the extreme west coast of British Columbia. We are headed to Vancouver Island to capture some of Canada's most pristine landscapes, black bears, whales and seascapes during a time of year when the morning fog creates a mysterious aura. The details are Coming Soon. Contact us to be notified of details when we announce them by clicking http://northof49photography.com/contact-us/

Spirit Bear - The rare Spirit Bear is known locally by several names;

-Kermode Bear, named after Francis Kermodei, former director of the Royal B.C. Museum.

-White Bear or Ghost Bear is often used by local folks.

-Moksgm’ol by local First Nations.

-Ursus americanus kermodei by Scientists.

-Spirit Bear is a more recent name for the White Bear.  Appropriate for a bear that is known for it’s elusive, ghostly yet timid nature.

This rare White Bear is actually a Black Bear! Scientists are actively studying this rare genetic trait that is possibly due to a recessive gene, or could be due to a result of a concentration of gene in a given area. The Spirit Bear is not an albino.

Scientists estimate there are 1,200 black and white Kermode bears in the coast area of British Columbia that stretches from around the northern tip of Vancouver Island northwards to the Alaska panhandle.

Many sightings are reported around the Terrace area, making the Spirit Bear it’s official mascot. They are often seen as far east as Hazelton, as far north as the Nass Valley up to Cranberry Junction and as far west as Prince Rupert.

Even though Kitimat is closest to the largely populated area of Princess Royal Island, there are almost no sightings in the area.

Like most black bears, the Spirit Bear only weighs about half a pound at birth, growing to 150-300 pounds when fully grown. The Kermode’s size averages between 4 and 6 feet. Height measured from paw to shoulders averages between 2 ½ and 3 feet.

The beautiful Spirit Bear will eat almost anything. Including you! However, there have been no reports of them eating people.

Being omnivores, they mostly live on fish and berries, but also eat deer and moose fawns, carrion, insects, plants, fruits, nuts, mushrooms and nuts. They depend on salmon runs in the fall to fatten themselves up for the long winter hibernation, where they can go without food for up to 7 months. This is the time frame we visit BC to photograph the spirit bears… and timing is everything to increase your chances. Having lived in BC I constantly monitor and watch the salmon spawns as they change slightly year over year. This allows us to adjust the tours for spirit bears to make sure you have the best chance to see them as they feed on the salmon.

Females reach sexual maturity at three to four years of age. They mate during the late spring, early summer months, gestating about 220 days. Cubs are born in their mother’s winter den in January or February, and are weaned at about eight months, but may remain with their mother for up to a year-and-a-half, when she is ready to mate again.

Like black bears, their average life span is about 25 years.

In 2017 we are headed to British Columbia to photograph the rare Spirit Bear in the rainforest on the following trip.

August 2017 - http://northof49photography.com/spirit-bear-photo-tour

I hope you consider joining us on one of our bear trips in 2016 and 2017.

Northof49Photography

 

*All photos in this post were either taken at our exact locations, or supplied by our lodge partners

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Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: www.kevinpepperphotography.com