Trip 2011

In summer 2011 David Bittner has spent again a bit more than two months in the Alaskan wilderness. At first together with his friend  Hansruedi Weyrich and then about 6 weeks on his own. This year David stayed until late in October in order to have a look at the bears life before they head for the mountains to hibernate. “It was very interesting to observe that all bears left the coastal feeding areas by the middle of October (around the 15th) even though there was still salmon available. Observing bears with a telescope from very large distances I saw many of them feeding on blue berries and digging.” Even though I spotted a few fresh dens on southward slopes my impression was that most bears head further inland to hibernate.

September and October 2011 were pretty shitty concering the weather. Many storms hit my camp. I spent quite a lot of days in camp hugging my sleeping bag. This was the worst summer ever. However, the few sunny days in late autumn were absolutely marvellous. Again I was blessed with few unforgettable moments with the bears I got to know so well after all those years. Especially one situation I experienced with Balu, probably the bear I know best, since I met him for the first time 7 years ago and have always seen him when returning to the very same spot in autumn. In this very situation he approached to within touching distance and then lay down, as if I was simply not there. I did not dear to move. After looking around for a while he even started to sleep right next to me. I was glad when he finally left after more than half an hour. When looking back to thousands of bear encounters this was definetely the most intense and I hope that this will not happen again, because this was simply too close even for my comfort.

Apart from this unique encounter with Balu there were many a wonderful experience with bears I know individually. For example there was Joya, a young female that just recieved her name this season. I know her mother Bertha and have seen this young bear grow from a yearling to a now 4 year old young female. She is very tolerant and curious and it is great to see a bear grow up like her. then there was Bruno, Hugo and Luunie as well.”

This summer biologist David Bittner focused on the right/left handed behaviour in bears. He simply recorded the times when a particular individual bear treated his catch of a salmon with the left or right front paw while feeding. It was interesting to observe that many bears are not fully right or left handed, but tend to change preferences. However, data are not large enough for thorough statistical analyses, but that is the trend and impression he observed. Late October David Bittner was happy to hear the floatplane’s arrival to take him back to civilization, where he was looking forward having a hot shower. Despite the harsh weather he experienced he is already looking forward meeting the bears again next summer in 2012.

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