Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Photographing a Hibernating Bear

©Bert Gildart: Again, bears are much on my mind, essentially because Gus Chambers from Montana Public TV spent this past Thursday with me in my office, going over some of my photo files that date back to the late 1960s. I’ll be posting some of those images later in the week, and think most readers will find them interesting. They tell stories of the ways in which bear management in national parks has so drastically changed.

Gus was interested in these photos as Public TV plans a  documentary intended to  rehash that horrible night in 1967 when two girls were fatally mauled, both in a single night (Night Of the Grizzlies). They intend the documentary to be released in late spring and in the gathering of materials the station has visited with all the people involved.  That’s a lot of leg work, but because of time invested, this promises to be a well-researched presentation.


Hibernating black bear on ridge overlooking Glacier National Park


Previously, Gus and his partner had interviewed me but last week he was here to peruse my files. Before he showed up I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to help. Gus wanted bear images, but more, he wanted images from the ‘60s, which was prior to the time when I began the methodical filing of professional images. No problem finding bear images, which he’ll use as stills, but he’d hoped for more, and so he asked:   “Don’t you have an old shoe box of images?”

Well, yes, I did, and what a treasure trove we found; images I hadn’t looked at in years. More later this week.


In the meantime, here is a black and white photo pulled from the days when I was the editor of the Flathead Outdoor Journal, an image which Gus and I found in the course of our search for photos for his documentary. The outdoor tabloid was published by the Bigfork Eagle,  and was eventually inserted into three of the Valley’s weekly papers. During those years, the paper often won first-place from the Montana Press Association, both for story content and for my photographs.

Above is one one of the images that won a first prize, and it was made from a hillside overlooking Glacier National Park. While hiking in late November friends and I had discovered a likely site for a bear den and decided we’d take a peek inside. Snow covered the ground that year, and it was extremely cold. Food was scarce so it was not a big surprise to find exactly what we’d been looking for hidden in the much recessed cave.

Crawling into the opening, I  could see curled in a ball in the far corner, a female black bear. She knew I was there but had already entered into a state of lethargy associated with hibernation, so she simply raised her head and then gnashed her teeth. She repeated this action several times, eventually sinking back into her stupor. A friend was grasping my ankle and if there had been a problem he was to yank me out with all his strength. Quickly I snapped a photo, and although the flash didn’t seem to disturb the bear, nevertheless I signaled my friend to yank.

It was a great photo opportunity, and it did win a prize, but I doubt I’ll do that again.



*When It Snow In The Great Smokies



2 Responses to “Photographing a Hibernating Bear”

  1. Rich Luhr Says:

    If you do try it again Bert, I’ll be glad to be the ankle-yanker. I think I can run faster than you.

  2. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Wow Bert! Glad the bear didn’t wake up for a “mid-night” snack as it were! When we go hiking down here we won’t be crawling into bear dens. We’ll crawl in slot canyons instead. :)