Saturday, April 11, 2009

Florida Black Bears

For years, Crystal and I always wished we'd see a wild bear in Florida. Then, a few years ago, we did. It was a young long-legged bear crossing the road in front of us pretty far away - but it was the first! 2008 was our Bear Year. We saw a couple in St. Marks early in the year, and then came the bumper crop of acorns in the fall.

I was visiting my friend Ted in Eastpoint. He lives on the edge of the national forest and talked of the bears coming into his (sparse) neighborhood for the big oaks. The next day, as we were headed to St. George Island for the evening light, Ted said it's time we see some bears... and as I was replying that my camera was packed in its case in the back of the truck, we spied a mama and cub standing beside the low branch of a sweeping live oak gobbling acorns in golden light at close range - beautiful sight to see! They saw us too. By the time I got my camera, all I got was the two of them looking back from the edge of the distant woods. (Click on these thumbnail photos to see the full image, then use your Back button for the rest of the story). We went on to St. George psyched by the bear encounter and shot goldenrod in thebacklit muhley grass...
and later found a pelican-lined sunset.

So, when Ted called me early one morning the next week to say there was a bear in his oaks, I rushed down there to see if I might have better photo luck. It was pre-dawn and I had an hour's drive. I did take the time to put my camera and telephoto lens on the tripod and guess at the likely settings for shooting a black bear in early morning light before heading out.

As I approached Ted's house on his long gravel driveway, I thought I saw a large animal moving through the woods behind his house. When I got out (camera-ready), Ted said the bear was scared off by the noise of my vehicle, but "he would be back." He never came back, BUT, in just a moment the cub I'd seen the previous week ran out from the woods into a clearing, paused for a few seconds to look back at me, then hightailed it into the woods. Those few seconds were enough.

Predictably, Mama was nearby. Moments later, she came in from the same woods, paused in nearly the same spot, then followed her young'un, both gone for the rest of the day. Being camera-ready paid off again. While it's not the intimate moment at the oak in golden light, I was very pleased to have captured images of these wild shy creatures of our forests. Thanks, Ted!

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