I’m drawn to Granny, who is thought to be between 30 and 35 years old. Over the next 38 years Stan lived among the bears, first with Edna until she died, and then with his second wife, Esther. The last truly wild places now draw adventure seekers from around the world. May through early June is also mating season; this is when we can see the larger boars in pursuit of females, but also when sows with new cubs are at their most wary. notice.style.display = "block"; In 1929, a bear killed a young Forest Service employee, which further turned public sentiment against the bears. timeout But coming to a halt in front of a massive lump of partially digested sedge grass—the remnants of a passing bear—in the middle of a claustrophobic trail walled in by gigantic tree trunks, I was struck by just such a sensation. The guttural roar of the single-engine motor was constant. Their rifles rest in the crooks of their arms, pointing slightly upwards. Mature male Kodiak bears average 1,000 to 1,200 pounds but can weigh up to 1,500 pounds when conditions are right. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. I think they are the same ones we saw on the shoreline. Time limit is exhausted. Stan and Edna Price moved to Alaska in 1929. The temperate rainforests of Admiralty Island's Kootznoowoo Wilderness are unique among the 5,700,000 acres of federally protected Wilderness in Southeast Alaska. As outdoorsman Brendan Leonard wrote, “Bears don’t care about your problems.” They just go about their bear business as we saw today at Pack Creek. We drew our coats closer against the cold wind. In 1952, after an unpleasant encounter with the IRS, the Prices towed their floating house, called a wannigan, to Pack Creek. This is still the Fortress of the Bear; humans are only transitory visitors. Kootznoowoo Incorporated | Fortress of Bears Live kootznoowoo.com. Enjoy low warehouse prices on name-brands products delivered to your door. Didn't seem to bother him. I am not kidding, it was that fast. 1,423 Views. We watched the bear graze, paying little notice to our group sitting just a short distance away. She looks underweight, her skin sagging a little, and her coat rough. 4.4 out of 5 stars 1,330. If you wish to travel on your own, you should plan to apply for a permit online ahead of time. Kootznoowoo, The Fortress of Bears . Check out our entire suite of free newsletters here. As the female fills the frame, I’m surprised that I’m not scared. Pack Creek, near Juneau, is in the heart of Admiralty Island – also known as the Fortress of the Bears (Kootznoowoo in the local Tlingit language). The Kodiak bear ( Ursus arctos middendorffi) is found in the Kodiak Archipelago islands of southwestern Alaska. Down below, a sea of undulating waves bordered rocky shores of pointed hemlock and spruce. National Monument designation didn’t change existing land uses, but did limit new activity. I worry for the cubs now that they are on their own, and I sympathize with Smiley, as all his hard work was for naught, this time. The rocky beach soon gave way to a small, earthen bank and a natural amphitheater, walled by dark trees and focused on a 400-acre mudflat, a meandering stream at its heart blanketed by thick sedge grass along its banks: Pack Creek. It’s his job to keep wild places like this safe for future generations of Americans. We had landed on the shores of Admiralty. One million people visit southeast Alaska every year. Aside from a lone raven gliding overhead, its wing beats audible, the amphitheater was empty and quiet. Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung. I was thrown for a moment when the words “Welcome to Admiralty!” in a strong Australian accent came out of one of the woman's mouth. Kayaking is hugely popular in the area, and there's great lakes and portage trails throughout. There are four other bears in the meadow as well. He turned and flashed a brief smile. TruthorFiction.com was able to track down the original photos of the giant bear killed in Alaska, and the hunter who shot it. The bears did have a small contingent of advocates. And startling.  =  Admiralty provides everything a bear requires to flourish: alpine denning sites, abundant water,  and lots to eat. A large brown bear emerges from Pack Creek. It is a fitting name because Kootznoowoo Wilderness, located in the heart of Admiralty Island off the Western coast of Alaska, is home to the highest concentration of brown bears in … Shannon Finch is a writer and aspiring photographer. Hunting closures for 20 square miles around Pack Creek further protected the bears. To understand Pack Creek, you have to understand Admiralty Island. Giant Teddy offers personalized teddy bears, stuffed animals and a FREE personalized greeting cards with every teddy. After the giant bear was killed, according to urban legend, three hikers were found inside the giant bear’s belly. At this particular moment, however, neither actor was making an appearance. Sadly, most are confined to crowded cruise ships and souvenir shops for the majority of their time in the last frontier. Reaching the plane, we were greeted by the smiling pilot. He is an individual with a unique personality, and a memory loaded with years of experiences, feelings of happiness and sadness and pain. I feel sad for Granny, likely in her last summer, and think about all she has experienced in her life here. (Photo: USFS). Where brown bears originated—and when—is a mystery, though fossil evidence shows their presence on the island for thousands of years. In a two-hour “Monster Week” special, veteran wildlife conservationist Bradley Trevor Greive leads an elite team into uncharted Alaskan wilderness in search of Grandfather – a bear locals believe is the largest to ever roam the earth. Bears and humans have met at this point for sometime now, and each is gracious with the other. https://www.outsideonline.com/2105796/visiting-alaskas-fortress-bears She disappears into the woods. Coming to Alaska brings to mind images of rugged landscapes and self-reliant adventurers. Thank you. In 1997 the U.S. Forest Service created the Pack Creek Zoological Area, 66,000 acres of habitat off limits to hunting. She alternately dozes and grazes, once in a while casually scratching with the immense claws on her hind foot.  +  We flew out to explore this wild marvel—here's how you can do the same. He chose a life that was no doubt hard, but it was a life of meaning and connection with the natural world. From the corner of my eye I can see our guide and a ranger at the corners of the viewing area, which is little more than a square outlined with logs that are better seats than barriers. Travel Water vapor from my breath collected as I pressed my face closer to the window. "Well, we'll figure something out," he chirped. The spirit of Kootznoowoo, the “Fortress of the Bear” by Nathaniel Stephens Last month we explored Baranof and Chichagof Islands and the outer coast of southeast Alaska. Get it as soon as Tue, Jan 12. If you happen to find yourself in Juneau, hop on a float plane (it's a 30-minute ride) and get out there with a good guide. Indian Heaven by Horseback: A Return to the Great Outdoors. These bears are big, really big, frequently tipping the scales at over 1,000 pounds. Compare that to the total human population of about 650. The cubs stand up often on their hind legs, scanning. It was another bear taking advantage of the low tide, browsing through the daily buffet of clams. })(120000); The island is home to the highest density of brown bears in North America and the highest density of bald eagles in the world. function() { "Well, here we are," came the hissing welcome of our float plane pilot through the intercom system. Obviously good bear conflict prevention measures should be practiced. 7 . I’ve been to a lot of places in the world that make a person feel small. The plan failed, but others took up the cause, recasting brown bears as majestic, intelligent and resourceful creatures rather than ruthless killers. Swinging open the doors, the waist deep water lapped against the floats of the plane. Raindrops crawled slowly across the cold glass as I peered through our float plane window at the forest below. FREE shipping within the continental United States. The Admiralty Island a.k.a. Fear Island wraps Animal … In the 1930’s bear viewing became a popular pastime for visitors from Juneau. Granny casually skirts the action, munching sedges as she goes. Today, it has the largest concentration of brown bears in the United States, with an estimated 1500-1600 bears. You can rent kayaks from Pack Creek Outfitters. I had made this journey to Admiralty with my longtime friend, Dan Kirkwood of the Alaska Wilderness League, an experienced bear guide who had generously offered to host me in his Juneau home and show me around. On all fours, it would have stood eye-to-eye with a grown man. Twisting my neck, I removed the intercom headphones cupped around my ears and heard the noise of the propellers come to an end. A guide will source permits and can arrange transportation. So we decided to head back to the shore. Choose Options. We hope you’ll support us. Required fields are marked *, (function( timeout ) { This seems like a confusing jumble of management, with a lot of layers. Edna Price said they never let their guard down around a bear. FEAR ISLAND ANIMAL PLANET. “Ready?” he hollered. But the foam on “Smiley’s” lips and his clacking teeth make the situation less amusing. Find more newsletters on our. If wilderness, as its definition attests, is supposed to stand “in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape,” then the Kootznoowoo Wilderness of Admiralty Island is serving its purpose well. President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to set aside Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof islands as a brown bear preserve. setTimeout( Shannon Finch The state is responsible for its management. Check flight prices and hotel availability for your visit. It’s hard not to get caught up in this bear soap opera. Please reload CAPTCHA. As one side of the plane dipped down, we began to circle our landing spot. Even with hunting permitted on 95% of the island, their numbers hold steady. You can't stay overnight in the sanctuary, but you can camp, permit free, on the island itself, and there's even a cabin you can rent. Who needs waders? Tags Admiralty Island. Muskeg and Forest, Kootznoowoo Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Alaska, U.S.A. Old-Growth Forest, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington, U.S.A. Amy Gulick is a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. It wasn’t always so. One quick look at the passengers gave him his answer. It can be a good thing: Jane Goodall would never have made her groundbreaking observations of the chimps at Gombe if they hadn’t accepted her presence. Subscribe to our What You Missed newsletter for the top headlines from the outdoor world, in your inbox six days a week. The rangers quickly suggested we walk one of the nearby trails to another viewpoint further upstream. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Said by locals to be the largest bear to ever roam the Earth, Grandfather and many of the other bears of Kootznoowoo have DNA shared with both Polar Bears and Brown Bears. When the salmon, the bears' main food source, do not return for the first time one summer, the grizzlies must find something else to eat from grass to even Dungeness crabs. Whether bears swam or crossed ice bridges to Admiralty is anyone’s guess. It’s set at 6ft and you’ll be surprised at the view you get of the bear as it walks past. He retreats into an alder thicket. That’s about one bear per square mile if you’re doing the math. Here’s another surprising fact: there are so many of these brown beasts patrolling the shores of Admiralty that there are no black bears—another southeast Alaska icon—to be found. Time limit is exhausted. We nodded back in the affirmative, and said our goodbyes and thanks to the rangers. She has a pronounced limp in her left hind leg, either from an old injury, arthritis, or both. He’s in a shallow puddle, watching as the female grazes. This lack of fear of humans, known as habituation, was passed on to generation after generation. . Within the wilderness area, black bears, elk, longhorn sheep and bobcats all thrive. The salmon need to fight up stream into the quiet rocky stream beds shaded by mature trees to spawn; the bears just need to be fed. display: none !important; While the other bears are doing their thing, he grabs an alder sapling and wrestles it to the ground, stomping and shaking it. Kootznoowoo Wilderness, located within the Admiralty Island National Monument in the Tongass National Forest, gets its name from the indigenous people of southeast Alaska, the Tlingit. The rich abundance of marine life, beautiful rugged mountains and one of the highest densities of Brown Bears in the world make it an exciting hunting location. The cubs are new to this scene, and fall over themselves to get out of the way. A large, lighter colored male follows her. Today, it has the largest concentration of brown bears in the United States, with an estimated 1500-1600 bears. }, The large hump between their shoulders leaves no doubt that these are grizzlies, or brown bears as they are known in this part of the world. The bear sanctuary is open from June 1 to September 10, but the best time to see bears season is during July and August. "Any of you got waders?" For reasons unknown, no black bears ever made it to the island. Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google, Thanks for signing up! After some time, we hit the point where the plane that brought us needed to return to Juneau. Pack Creek itself descends from an elevation of 4000 feet through grasslands, spruce and hemlock forest, and rich sedge meadows, until it reaches the tidal flats of Seymour Canal. Once we were all safely on the wind-swept shore, we were greeted by two Forest Service rangers in faded-green rubber rain jackets. 5% coupon applied at checkout Save 5% with coupon. The sedge meadow is lush, bear-belly high in some places. We’re lucky, because often by now the bears have headed back into the forest or up into the mountains to wait for the salmon to come in early July. Subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest outdoor news. (Photo: USFS). The outgoing tide had removed a blanket of water and exposed a vast stretch of beach hundreds of yards wide. There are only two ways to get to Pack Creek: by boat or by float plane. Note: Friends who visited Pack Creek the next summer said that Granny didn’t appear, and is presumed dead. Immediately we see Smiley and his intended. The trees felt like pillars of a Greek temple, as if they held the clouds aloft. A prehistoric South American giant short-faced bear tipped the scales at up to 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) and towered at least 11 feet (3.4 meters) standing up, according to … Bears are descending from hibernation high on the mountainsides down to the beach and estuary to gorge on giant clams at low tide and to graze on nutritious grasses and sedges. It starts out cloudy, but the sun gradually makes an appearance. During July and August, it's not uncommon to observe up to 25 bears visiting Pack Creek at a time. A large brown bear emerges from Pack Creek. Initially, Kootznoowoo, like every other village corporations in Southeast Alaska, had the right to select a total of 23,040 acres in the immediate vicinity of its own home village. The bears are now about 30 feet from us, but they ignore us as they lumber past the viewing area. I worry that we are going to witness a fight. }, In the Fortress of the Bear: Brown Bears and the Legacy of Stan Price. if ( notice ) They worked at numerous jobs, including mining, logging, and fish canning. This gateway between temperate rainforest and the waters of the Inside Passage is a natural rendezvous point for bears and salmon. Two cubs, a blonde female and a light brown male, graze on sedges. The sight was fairly predictable, yet absolutely surreal. We were in bear territory now. During July and August, it's not uncommon to observe up to 25 bears visiting Pack Creek at a time. In 1934, the National Forest Service and Alaska Game Commission created the Pack Creek Bear Preserve, and in 1935 the Civilian Conservation Corps built an observation tower upstream from the mud flats. It seems that I indeed captured her in her last summer. Twice rebuffed, he looks around, and sees Smiley and friend, making a beeline for them. Sea and sky came together as we touched down on the water. We arrive by skiff. Being originally from South Africa myself, I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. The distant bear turned to look in our direction and raised itself onto its hind feet. An 18-year-old man was killed by a grizzly bear while working at a silver mine in Alaska on Monday, state troopers said, marking the second fatal mauling in the largest U.S. state this year. Suddenly she decides to move on, and that’s when we have our close encounter of the bear kind. Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today. For decades, tourists at Yellowstone National Park—and some staff who should have known better—used food to lure black bears in for photos. At 1600 square miles, Admiralty is the seventh largest island in the United States. Angoon is located on the western side of Admiralty Island, a place known as “kootznoowoo,” or the “Fortress of Brown Bears”. Angoon is located on the southwest coast at Kootznoowoo Inlet. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Get directions, maps, and traffic for Angoon, AK. A land of giants. I’m . This may account for the brown bear’s larger size compared to other grizzlies, though an ample food supply helps too. October 13, 2020 Habituation is the reason we are able to observe the bears in such close proximity. A frayed yellow cord tied to the wing flapped violently as we flew along through wind and rain. Because of him, we get a glimpse into a world so different from the human-centric one most of us inhabit. The wind had returned, and in the distance we spotted a large dark body. But it was a human catastrophe, the Great Depression, that gave the bears a brief respite as timber contracts dried up. But Smiley backs off, and in an instant, the dark female hooks up with the interloper. In both accounts, the bear weighed a monstrous 1,600 pounds. That the Pack Creek preserve exists at all is due to the unexpected convergence of its prime bear habitat; an intrepid adventurer named Stan Price; and unusual cooperation between multiple government agencies. Looking for something else? Check out the clip, before reading on for the rest of your Fear Island advance preview. Pack Creek, Inside Passage – Brown bears June – September. Stan loved all animals, allowing deer into his house to nap on the bed, and bears to nap in his wood shed. asked our pilot, raising a bushy eyebrow. When the tide turned for the bears, it was almost as if to make up for lost time. Shop Costco.com for electronics, computers, furniture, outdoor living, appliances, jewelry and more. Its height and presence seemed to draw us closer. She crosses the creek to get away from him, and then crosses again. She lives on a small farm in Stanwood, WA with her husband and many rescue animals and enjoys photographing wildlife and landscapes. The corners of his mouth curve upward in a sort of permanent smile. As we motor towards the island, we see a female bear with two cubs trailing behind. Stan was a renaissance man, able to build and fix anything. Fortress of the Bears in Southeast Alaska harbors the largest concentration of Alaskan Brown bears on Earth. There are also professionals out there to keep visitors from doing something stupid. If wilderness, as its definition attests, is supposed to stand “in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape,” then the Kootznoowoo Wilderness of Admiralty Island is serving its purpose well. He has done everything a male bear strives to do in his life: survive, mate, grow to great size and strength, and even have fun. The native Tlingit name for Admiralty Island is Kootznoowoo, Fortress of the Bear, leaving no doubt as to who was, and still is, the dominant species. We waited, but the thought that we may have come too early in the year, beaten the salmon to the stream, seemed to push the possibility of seeing a bear further away. Admiralty Island is my favorite place in the spring. When the female is ready to mate, she drives the cubs off, first to protect them from males, and second, because it’s time. mesmerized. After meeting up with a ranger on the South Spit, we walk along the mud flats towards the viewing area. Scientists frown upon attributing human feelings to other animals, but it’s hard not to see Smiley’s alder smackdown as frustration. I wish I could have known Stan Price, walked the island with him, learned what he knew so intimately about this place and its inhabitants. twelve He follows. Kootznoowoo, Alaska is called that because of the literal translation “Fortress of the Bears” and that’s exactly what it is. Or maybe paralyzed. I track the bears through my camera lens. Admiralty Island is one among the hundreds that make up the rain-soaked Alexander Archipelago in southeast Alaska. No human or bear has been injured at Pack Creek since it has been actively managed, and the agencies have a strict protocol to keep it that way. Though the largest bear to ever exist, that is verifiable, is Arctodus simus, also known as the Giant Short-Faced Bear. But these were small victories. In the early 1900’s, logging companies set their sights on Admiralty Island’s timber, which put them in direct conflict with brown bears. var notice = document.getElementById("cptch_time_limit_notice_76"); The native Tlingit name for Admiralty Island is Kootznoowoo, Fortress of the Bear, leaving no doubt as to who was, and still is, the dominant species. There’s a collective exhalation from us humans, and excited whispers and nervous grins at what we just witnessed here at the Pack Creek Zoological Area, a unique brown bear preserve on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska. Admiralty is truly a jewel among many in the Tongass, and your experience in this land of giants will be unforgettable. I see him in my mind’s eye, striding through the sedge meadow with his stick. A crow pecks at the mud around him, getting quite close, but Smiley only has eyes for the dark female. All told there are more than 1,500 brown bears inhabiting this one island: that’s more than all the grizzlies in the lower 48 states combined. $39.99 $ 39. Old-growth forests are often lauded for their serenity and solitude, but flying over the vast Tongass National Forest on a blustery day felt foreboding. It is the largest subspecies of brown bear and one of the two largest members of the bear family, the other being the polar bear. These ancient forests are home to the highest concentrations of brown bears in the world, as well as thousands of bald eagles, Sitka Black-tailed Deer, boreal toads, and all five species of Alaskan salmon. Smiley takes a couple of steps towards them, and then seems to think better of it. A great, giant bear who has survived and prospered for almost 30 years. Smiley again lies down on his belly, hind legs splayed out like a frog. She lives near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. .hide-if-no-js { Next we will complete our “ABC’s “ with a traverse of Admiralty Island. Alaska is home to some of the largest brown bears on the planet, and southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage includes several remote islands that have more giant bears per square mile than anywhere else in the world. In addition to brown bears, it is home to a large population of bald eagles, many other bird species, Sitka Black-tailed deer, marten, mink, otter, and all five species of Pacific salmon. Called “Kootznoowoo” or “Fortress of the Bears” by the native Tlingit tribe, the island has one of the highest concentrations of Ursus arctos on the planet, fed and nurtured by the annual drumbeat of pacific salmon drawn to its shaded streams. So, for this particular outing into the wilderness, I find it best to compartmentalize the moment when I was hastily slung like a sack of potatoes over another man's broad shoulders and carried briskly ashore. Wilderness designation is the government’s most comprehensive protection, safeguarding watersheds, habitat, and outdoor recreation. Even with hunting permitted on 95% of the island, their numbers hold steady. Still she manages to eat and move around, and I can’t stop taking photos of her expressive face that has either a scar or a big smudge of dirt on it. Word got around about the Prices’ unusual living situation and people flocked to Pack Creek to see for themselves. ); I was trailing behind Dan when we reached the mouth of the creek. 6 Foot Tall Life Size Mocha Brown Giant Teddy Bear - Sunny Cuddles Give the gift of friendship and tenderness with a Giant Teddy 6 foot tall stuffed bear like Sunny Cuddles. Just over the rise, about 200 yards from where we stood, grazed an awesome brown bear. But habituation can be dangerous, especially when food is involved. He explored Admiralty Island, armed only with a stick, getting to know the island and his “neighbors.” Female bears especially became accustomed to him, and brought their cubs to the homestead as a way to avoid aggressive males. Your email address will not be published. Dan, crested on the bank with binoculars in hand, turned and flashed a smile. In 1980 Congress created the Kootznoowoo Wilderness, which covered nearly all of island. 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