In Bear Company

From time to time KPTMC will feature a guest blogger of THE KENAI. Today we would like to share an article written by Joyce Lehman about a place of legends, Hallo Bay Bear Viewing Camp.

My husband, Scott, has a passion for photography, especially wildlife photography. In 2006, we planned a trip to the Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp in Alaska, which is part of the Katmai National Park and Preserve. Hallo Bay offers one of the largest concentrations of Alaskan brown bears in the world. It also promises seclusion and an authentic experience of the wilderness.

Clint and Simyra Hlebechuk organize and run the camp in a manner that gives people an opportunity to view the wild animals in their natural habitat without disturbing the wilderness. Since our first visit in 2006, we have returned every year so that Scott can observe and photograph the Alaskan brown bear.

Getting to the Hallo Bay bear camp is an experience in itself. Once we arrive at Homer, Alaska, we board a small bush plane. The plane carries only five passengers, including the pilot. I am not fond of flying in general, so on our first visit, when I realized we would be landing on a narrow strip of beach, I closed my eyes, placed a death grip on my husband’s hand and prayed. But my fears were unfounded. It was one of the best landings I had ever experienced, especially considering that the landing strip changes with the tide.

When visiting between May and mid-July, we hike to a beautiful meadow where we see bears feeding on sedge grass as they try to fatten up after long months of hibernation. We also see spring cubs who are very cautious and stay close to their mothers.

When visiting between mid-July and mid-August, we hike to a different area, where the bears feast on salmon. Usually, the dominant male takes the best fishing spot and guards it from the others. At Hallo Bay, we enjoy watching bears fishing for salmon, digging for clams and nursing their young; dominating male bears protecting their territory by running off their opponents; nearly adult bears engaging in playful sparring bouts, and much more.

The Hallo Bay camp organizers have been guiding visitors to this area for over 20 years. The bears have even grown accustomed to the clicking of cameras; at times, you would swear they are posing. When they get tired of being photographed, they just walk off into the brush. While the bears tolerate human presence, one must never forget that they are large, powerful and wild animals. While not normally aggressive, they can be extremely dangerous, and it is best to be careful.

We ourselves have never been threatened by a bear. However, once we witnessed a ferocious fight between two adult males. While they were fighting, a third bear, who seemed rather anxious, circled around the whole time. The fight got nasty, and fur flew everywhere. Our guide explained to us that they were fighting over territory.

Bears are not the only subject for photographers. The area also teams with foxes, wolves, eagles, beavers, moose, seals and sea otters. My husband has photographed all of these animals. At the camp, we meet photographers from all over the world who share our enthusiasm for the bears — interesting people we would not have otherwise met.

When my husband first suggested that we go to the bear camp, I was less than enthused. Now I cannot imagine not going. It is truly an experience that everyone should explore at least once in their lifetime.

Thanks to her husband’s passion for wildlife photography, Joyce Lehman,

General Chemical Industrial Products, has become a bear camp enthusiast.

Click HERE to learn more about the Hallo Bay Bear Camp


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