Tag Archives: bear

Tale of three bears

Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Wapusk National Park is a 11,475 square kilometer park located on the western coast of Hudson Bay. The University of Saskatchewan has been studying polar bears within the park since 2011. Wapusk sits at the transition of boreal forest and Arctic tundra. The park contains three different, but equally dynamic ecosystems: forest, tundra and ocean. Wapusk is one of the largest polar bear denning areas in the world, with a population of over 1000 polar bears venturing in and out of the park. During a five year period, remote cameras were able to document the visits of 366 polar bears within the park.

Since the southern portion of the park contains the northern edge of a boreal forest, it was no surprise to find images of black bears on the remote cameras. Researchers were surprised to find that the number of black bear visits were almost as high as the polar bears.

For the first time, researchers were able to capture visits from all three of North America’s bear species within the park. It wasn’t just a few grizzly bears that had moved into the area, but many, and at least one is believed to be denning within the park.

Barren ground grizzly bears have been expanding their range in the Arctic in recent years. The question now for park managers is what, if anything, should they do about it. Prevailing thought claims that the grizzly is a threat to polar bears. Is that based on research, or opinion? Have the two bear populations benefitted each other in the past, or clashed?

With the continued decrease of sea ice, and the grizzly roaming into new territory for food and habitat, this interaction of the two species will only increase.

It’s an interesting study by the University of Saskatchewan, and they ask some intriguing questions.

Photo credit: University of Saskatchewan; Research by Douglas Clark, University of Saskatchewan


Some levity

Tundra Life:


Comic credit: Chad Carpenter’s Tundra


Fat Bear Week

Katmai National Park has been holding its annual Fat Bear Week over the past few days.

Complete with a March Madness type bracket, the park has been posting before and after pictures of various bears, in a head to head, or possibly, belly to belly, face off.

Highlighting how much weight brown bears need to put on over the summer to get through hibernation, Katmai has found a unique way to raise public awareness.

Two bears now go belly to belly for the 2018 title of Fattest Bear of Katmai.

First we have Bear #409, also known as Beadnose. Beadnose comes into the championship round having beat out three time champion Otis.

Challenging Beadnose is Bear #747. This Bear carries a lot of weight, but no nickname. Although, I expect that will change next spring. I have to admit, 747 is appropriate, just look at that wide body.

I believe voting closes today at 3 pm Alaska time on the Katmai Facebook page.


William H. Seward House

The Seward House

Built in 1816 by the future father in law of William Seward, the Seward House is now a museum.

William H. Seward

William Seward was the governor of New York State, a U.S. senator for New York, and probably best known as the U.S. Secretary of State as a member of Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals”.

The Seward library

Seward led a fascinating life. He was not a big man in stature, but he was certainly a bold man who dominated the politics of his era.

Leave your sword with the bear at the door.

Seward lost to Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860, but then became Lincoln’s Secretary of State.

Painting depicting the signing of the purchase of the Alaska Territory

We took the tour of the house, led by a volunteer guide. It’s well worth the hour it takes to conclude the tour. The price was $10 with the AAA card.

The House holds a lot of Seward family heirlooms. William Seward took the home over from his father in law, and Seward’s son followed him, and his grandson took over the home from there. William H. Seward III donated the house to the foundation.

The purchase of Alaska is prominently displayed throughout the tour. One member of our party tried to get the woman at the desk to let me look through the photo album in the glass case. She politely declined.

There is a Native Alaskan kayak displayed from the ceiling in the carriage house. The kayak was given to Seward during his visit to Alaska in 1869.

A parlor in the house. Seward passed away while lying on the couch in the picture, although the couch was in another room at the time of his death.

Seward’s office, which is the room the former Secretary of State died in.


Pawing in Katmai


Viewing platform, Katmai National Park & Preserve

A curious brown bear approached a visitor in Katmai National Park, and pawed at the visitor’s pant leg recently. That bear then wandered off. In a second incident, a brown bear was being chased by another brown bear through Brooks Camp, and a worker at Brooks Lodge was “pawed”. Neither bear, nor person was injured in the pawings.

Katmai draws a large concentration of brown bears once the salmon start to run, which also brings the visitors to view the fishing bears. Some interaction would be expected, but what is really unusual about these events, is that the last time a bear made physical contact with a human in Katmai was 20 years ago. That really is a phenomenal safety record, especially with the unpredictability of both species.

Park Rangers believe the main cause of the interactions, is due to the high number of subadult bears at Brooks River this year. A subadult is a bear between 2.5 and 5 years old. They naturally like to chase each other, and are trying to feel out their place in the hierarchy. The last time Katmai had a similar number of subadult brown bears, was roughly 20 years ago.

Photo credit: Katmai NP&P


Attack of the Cobra


1965 289 Shelby Cobra

The host of some show called Barn Find Hunter has been touring Alaska in his 1965 Shelby Cobra. His tour, which includes three more Cobras and their passengers, had stopped in Girdwood overnight. Girdwood is a small community south of Anchorage, just off of the Seward Highway.

On Wednesday morning, it was obvious that the Cobra had been broken into during the night. There were prints all over the car, some dents in the rear fender, and the convertible top had been ripped open.

Alaska State Troopers, called to the crime scene, confirmed what was apparent from the tracks in the mud.

“Grizzly”.

The stolen item? A small package of Fig Newtons, that had been left behind the seat.

That’s why us residents always say: Don’t bring food into your tents. Or your classic convertibles…

On the plus side, Barn Find Hunter has a good future episode.

Photo credit: Hagerty


Eight stars of gold on a field of blue


The Alaska state flag

In 1927, when Alaska was still a U.S. Territory, Territorial Governor George Parks persuaded the Alaska American Legion to hold a competition. The Governor thought it would help the statehood movement by having a state flag, so the Legion held a contest, open to all Alaskan children, to design Alaska’s new flag.

142 designs were sent to Juneau from all over the state. A thirteen year old living in Seward, John Ben “Benny” Benson won the contest with a simple, yet elegant design.


Benny Benson holding his design for the new Alaska flag

Benny Benson was born in the fishing village of Chignik. His father was a Swedish fisherman, his mother an Aleut-Russian. Benny’s mother died when he was just three, and the family home burned to the ground shortly afterwards. His father, John Ben Benson Sr, could not take care of his three children alone, so they were divided up. Benny and his brother were put into an orphanage in Unalaska; his sister Elsie was sent to a school in Oregon.

The Jesse Lee Home in Unalaska was home to hundreds of Aleut orphans. It eventually moved from Unalaska in the Aleutian Chain, to the town of Seward on the mainland. It was from here that Benny Benson sent his design for the Alaska flag, as a seventh grader.


The Jesse Lee Home for Children in Unalaska, circa 1901

Benson described his design to the judges this way: “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”

The Territorial Legislature approved the new flag in May of 1927, and Alaska officially flew its new flag for the first time on 9 July 1927. Benny Benson received a watch, with the flag design etched on it, as well as a $1000 educational scholarship, which he eventually used to become a diesel mechanic.

Benson Boulevard in Anchorage, which is a major east-west thoroughfare, is named after Benny.
A Benny Benson Memorial is located at milepost 1.4 of the Seward Highway in Seward.
The airport in Kodiak was renamed the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport in 2013.
A school in Anchorage on Campbell Airstrip Road has been named the Benny Benson School.

Benny Benson died of a heart attack in 1972. He was 58.

The black & white photos courtesy of The Alaska State Library Archives