By Mark McConville
WATCH the remarkable moment a 1000lb Coastal brown bear comes within feet of a group of photographers as up to 100 more fish on the river below.
Thrilling images and video footage show the eight-foot bear casually stroll by the awestruck photographers, paying them no mind whatsoever.
Other stunning pictures and video show between 50 and 100 of the huge bears fishing for salmon in the river.
The incredible encounter was captured at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, Alaska, USA, by teacher and amateur photographer Ian Stotesbury (40) from Vancouver, Canada.
“I see an amazing untouched landscape that is truly wild,” he said.
“Bears and other wildlife are able to live a life that is not influenced by human activity. McNeil River is a remote spot that is only accessed by plane and because of the strict policies only allowing few humans to see it, the wildlife there flourishes.
“What an amazing experience to be surrounded by 50-100 bears a day. There was no protection between us and the bears.
“They didn’t see us as a threat. Every day we moved in a predictable manner and were respectful of the environment around us.”
The Alaska Peninsula brown bear is any member of the grizzly bear subspecies that lives in the coastal regions of southern Alaska.
Brown bears on the Alaskan Peninsula usually feed on spawning salmon, and use many different ways to catch them. These include waiting at the bottom of the falls for the fish to jump, or standing at the top of the falls waiting to catch the fish in midair (sometimes in their mouths). Bears also have much experience at chasing fish around and pinning the slippery animals with their claws.
Ian, who took these images with a Nikon d500 and Nikon d800, hopes his images cna draw attention to this beautiful nature reserve which is now under threat.
“This environment is now under threat by a Canadian mining corporation called Pebble,” he added.
“They are currently trying to build a mine close to McNeil and this poses a great threat. I hope people can learn to appreciate animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them.
“It saddens me that the Pebble mine corporation and the Trump administration are threatening this land with the development of a mine close by.
“I hope my images help people see that these animals are struggling to survive and we are constantly encroaching on their environment. Development in areas like this will put stress on the bears and the environment.”
The Alaska State Legislature designated the McNeil River area as a wildlife sanctuary in 1967, and enlarged it in 1993, to protect the world’s largest concentration of wild brown bears.
As many as 144 individual bears have been observed at McNeil River through the summer with as many as 74 bears observed at one time. I saw 76 at one time on my first day there.
No one has ever been injured or killed by a bear since the permit program was started.