A few days ago Leonard and I were in Upper Kings Creek Meadow at Lassen Volcanic National Park. While I photographed some Sierra corydalis (see Sierra corydalis 08-09-17), Leonard wandered off searching for other wildflowers. Soon Leonard rushed back. There was a black bear (Ursus americanus) dozing on a snow bank and he wanted me to see it.
As Leonard and I approached, the bear got up and moved into a dense patch of willows approximately 200 feet in diameter and two to four feet in height between us and the snowbank. Although we could not see the bear, it was obvious where he was from the moving willow branches. We worked our way around the willows and positioned ourselves about 50 feet away from the bear and quietly waited. Before long the black bear reared on its back legs and looked over the willows at us. We silently watched.
Much to our surprise Mr/Mrs Bear walked out of the willows and began eating sedge in front of us and continued eating for approximately 10 minutes. The bear knew we were there as Leonard and I did not hide and occasionally softly spoke to each other. The bear would glance over at us, yet did not appear disturbed or agitated by our presence. Eventually the black bear ambled away, nibbling sedge along the way. Leonard and I chose not to follow.
Over the years, Leonard and I only got brief glimpses of every other black bear we previously encountered. As soon as they become aware of our presence, those bears moved quickly away. We speculate that this black bear, living in a National Park, was not hunted or harassed so is less wary of humans. Thankfully, there was nobody else around and we were able to experience this prolonged encounter with a black bear without disturbance – “priceless”.
As Leonard said, “We respected the bear and it respected us.”