Salmon and eagles and bears–oh, my!

This morning (July 21), a jet boat carrying the two of us, ten other passengers, and three crew whooshed over the jade waters south and east of the town of Wrangell (at the northern tip of Wrangell Island) to the Anan Wildlife Observatory, 30 miles southeast of Wrangell–an amazing place indeed! Anan Creek, which supports one of the largest pink salmon runs in Southeast Alaska, roars and rushes over rocks down to Anan Lagoon, which empties into the sea at Anan Bay, and in the summer, the creek is thickly carpeted with salmon returning upstream to spawn.

A view over Anan Creek from the Wildlife Observatory’s deck on an overcast but pleasant afternoon. A well-camouflaged brown bear is on a rock to the left of the base of the rapids but is nearly impossible to see.

The Forest Service has constructed an observatory at the top of the rapids so that the fishing bears and their cubs can be watched from above, and the many bald eagles, crows, and seagulls that feed on any salmon remains left by the bears (both black and brown varieties) can be viewed easily as well. A beautiful half-mile gravel and boardwalk trail begins from the mouth of Anan Lagoon and leads, through the rainforest along the shores of the lagoon and creek, where numerous waterbirds, eagles, and harbor seals can be seen, to the observatory platform. From the platform, steep stairs lead down into a covered “viewing blind” from which the bears can be watched from just a few feet above the stream without being disturbed.

Two brown bears appear in the top photo and a a black bear with its fresh salmon catch can be seen in the bottom picture. Eagles, crows, and gulls will clean the salmon “left-overs” from the rocks in very short order!
A bald eagle performs clean-up duties while a crow waits in line for his turn to grab some fresh fish.

The jet boat trip to Anan took an hour; we stopped along the way to observe plump harbor seals piled on some rocks and to get a close look at some (now very pale) reddish paintings on some rocks above a shore–their origins and possible meanings are unknown. As we walked along the trail to the observation platform, our guides told us about the flora and fauna in the area, pointed out bear tracks and scat piles and trails up and down the hillsides, and related stories about past encounters with bears (they carried bear spray and firearms “just in case”) and about the bears themselves.

We had somewhat less than four hours during which to view and photograph the wildlife, and everyone had a marvelous time, on the platform and in the blind!

When I came up from my 15 minutes in the viewing blind just above the stream, people were taking pictures of this young bear, named “Twerp,” who had climbed up into a hemlock and appeared to be napping. I took photos too! In the center of the picture, you can see a bald eagle sitting on the log in the creek.
The bear spent a good bit of time in the tree, and climbed down when I wasn’t watching.

From time to time, black bears wandered up the banks and crossed the trail just outside the observatory gate. It was wonderful to be that close AND safe!

The tour was expensive, but Walt and I enjoyed it VERY much! I hope that you like the pictures, and that you will look back at the posts from the last several days to see updated pictures.

2 thoughts on “Salmon and eagles and bears–oh, my!

  1. Good Morning,

    We are enjoying your adventures. We are starting one of our own today that will bring us closer to you. We are taking Holland America to Alaska. It is just 7 days and only to the regular cruise ports. Our ship is the Eurodam and it will take the outside route up to Juneau and come back on the inside route.

    We will be in:

               Juneau on Monday 
               Glacier Bay, Icy Strait Point on Tuesday 
               Sitka on Wednesday 
               Ketchikan on Thursday 
               Victoria on Friday night 

    I bet you will be able to track us but I don’t think we will get very close to your location.

    Thanks again for all the updates and great pictures.

    Dennis & Rhoda


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