In the Field

Bad Attitude Kodiak Bear

The story of a bully Kodiak bear with a bad attitude.

Out of all the bears that I’ve had the privilege of observing, fishing alongside, and photographing throughout my years in Alaska, there’s only been a few that have really made me nervous, or, that have been a downright nuisance. Almost all the bears that fall into that category have been younger bears who are in that stage of trying to prove themselves and test the limits of what they can get away with. Those kinds of bears are essentially the equivalent of a rebellious, trouble-making teenage punk who’s challenging authority on every level. One such bear that I can clearly recall is a young Kodiak that I refer to as the “bad attitude bear.”

I first encountered that bear on a beautiful Autumn morning while fishing for silver salmon along one of my favorite rivers on Kodiak Island. It was one of those cool, colorful fall days when all was right with the world. I was at my all-time favorite fishing hole, the salmon were biting, the songbirds were singing, the eagles were soaring high overhead, and one simply couldn’t ask for more. As I was thoroughly entranced with the sound of the rushing river and the hypnotic motion of casting my fly rod, my salmon fishing spell was suddenly broken when I heard a disruption in the otherwise rhythmic sound of the water behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to find a young, fat Kodiak bear not more than 30 yards from me and moving in fast.

Bully grizzly Kodiak brown bear
The bad attitude, bully Kodiak bear looking for trouble!

I immediately stopped fishing, went through the usual bear safety routine of identifying myself as a non-threatening human, and I slowly, cautiously backed off and put as much space as I could between me and the bear. He seemed to appreciate my moving on and simply went about his business of catching some fish for breakfast. I was at a very safe distance at that point, and happen to have my camera and zoom lens with me, so I was able to get some memorable photos of that bear fishing for and eating his fill of fresh salmon. After a quick photo session, I begrudgingly left my favorite fishing hole, and moved on about a mile downstream to fish another spot. Wouldn’t you know it, about an hour later, here came that same bear! He boldly muscled right into where I was fishing and essentially took over. So, I once again moved on, and sure enough, the whole process repeated itself again and again throughout the day! That bear simply didn’t want me anywhere on the river at all!

As it turned out, I was not the only one who that bear didn’t want to share the river with. As I found out in the weeks to come, that bear ran off virtually every fisherman who came along. And, it wasn’t just people that he didn’t like, he bullied and ran off other bears, he chased away eagles, foxes, and even seagulls! Even though the salmon run was extremely plentiful that year, and there was more than enough fish to go around for every creature within a 50-mile radius, that fat, greedy, selfish bear seemed to get a real kick out of exercising his newfound dominance and testing the limits of his supremacy. For the time being, there were not any older, bigger bears around, so he was the undisputed king of the river, and he did indeed have a real bad attitude! However, his reign did eventually come to end. I’m not sure what happened to that bear, but one day he simply vanished without a trace, and no one ever saw him again. Whether a bigger, more dominant bear came along and ran him off, no one seems to know for sure. But the other bears, as well as all the other creatures who fished that river, along with we humans, weren’t too terribly sad to see him go. So long bad attitude bear!

So that’s a little bit of the behind the scenes story of the bad attitude, bully Kodiak bear. If you’d like to check out lots more bear videos, be sure to subscribe to the Wild Revelation Outdoors YouTube Channel.

To see more photos, check out the video version of this story by clicking here.

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How to photograph bears. Photography book. Joseph Classen.
To learn more about bears, check out my book, How to Photograph Bear – The Beauty of the Beast.