Wildlife photographers spend a lot of time searching for the perfect shot. They can spend years and thousands of dollars searching for the best shot at their careers. It takes a lot of patience and also a lot of luck.
The combination of the two led photographer Drew Hamilton to an unbelievable moment with a grizzly bear.
Drew Hamilton was documenting a herd of brown bears fishing in the rapids on a reserve in Alaska. The photographer was camping along an area of the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in Alaska when he was distracted by a giant brown bear that appeared beside him.
The reserve boasts one of the largest populations of brown bears in the world. This makes it pretty well known for its visibility.
It was given protected status as a game refuge in 1967 and then expanded to cover a total of 200 square miles in 1993, with the singular goal of maintaining a healthy, vibrant, and wild brown bear population that is free from human interference.
With the department’s growing success in managing land in the reserve to support healthy brown bear populations, human interest in visiting the area has also increased.
To limit the human impact on wildlife within the borders of the McNeil Sanctuary and Refuge borders, they have put in place a system that allows a limited number of people to see bears in person.
Each year, no more than 10 people are selected through a random draw to receive permits to enter the reserve.
Even then, you can only watch the bears under close supervision and only from predefined viewing points. Knowing how rare it is just to get to stand within the refuge in the presence of bears made Hamilton’s experience that much more astonishing.
Hamilton is currently an Alaskan wildlife guide for Natural Habitat Adventures & WWF. He takes paying clients out into the wilderness and leads them to rare and amazing wildlife campgrounds great.
When the video was shot in 2014, Hamilton was a technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, so he had access to the McNeil River Reserve that spring to photograph the Grizzlies as they feasted on salmon.
As he was filming, a giant Grizzly bear strode right into Hamilton’s camp.
Apparently, the bear had just woken up from a nap, and it yawned as it looked out over the riverbank.
Hamilton was so mesmerized by the sight of bears fishing in the river that he almost didn’t realize he had a sleepy companion.
As the dazed bear looked out over the water, it looked at Hamilton and his camera with complete contentment and satisfaction.
It even almost looks like a big bear is smiling.
In fact, the dreaded furball didn’t flinch in Hamilton’s presence. He decided to plunge right next to Drew’s camping chair and look him straight in the face.
For anyone else on earth, this could very well be an utterly terrifying encounter. Hamilton, however, seems to have been carved by experience for moments exactly like this one.
According to his guide bio, he was born in Anchorage and raised in Iowa, and has spent the past 12 years tracking and photographing Alaskan wildlife.
So when the opportunity presented itself to a giant Grizzly within reach, instead of fighting back with panic, he reached for his camera.
After hanging with Hamilton for a few minutes, the bear seemed to realize that he had other places to stay. Specifically, he had a lunch date with his friends at a nearby river.
Hamilton was able to capture his grizzly friend hunting for his breakfast, adding another incredible layer to his experience. This is definitely a moment Hamilton will remember forever!
If you want to see Hamilton and the bear, check out the video below!
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