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Grizzly bears get a bad rap.
It’s easy to get spooked by stories of bear encounters, but as I learned during a week of observing grizzlies on Kodiak Island, Alaska, there’s no such thing as a bad bear—just bad human behavior.
My journey with Brad Josephs—an ursine expert and an expedition leader with WWF’s tour provider, Natural Habitat Adventures—began on Kodiak, where our small group traveled by float plane and boat to remote corners of Katmai National Park. Each day, we sat on spongy, grassy shorelines watching grizzly bears search for salmon in the crisscrossing streams while gulls flew overhead.
Hunting is not allowed in the park, so bears haven’t developed a fear of humans. Josephs kept us a safe distance away, and any trepidation I felt simply melted from the grizzlies. The bears gave us little more than passing glances as we stared in awe—and they went about their day.
Then, a female bear approached our group. She ambled along, peering into a nearby raging river to look for salmon. As she neared, her attention shifted to us as we sat huddled together quietly. She came within eight feet of us. I knew this was a moment worth soaking in, so I put my camera equipment down and just stared, my spirit filled with curiosity and respect.
And, to my huge joy, the bear stared back.