Photographing Bears in the Wild

One of the many benefits of living in a relatively remote area of Virginia, bordering a national park, is that we are guests among a thriving ecosystem of animals including black bears. Black bears on the east coast of the U.S. tend to be smaller than their west coast cousins, yet they can still reach 400+ pounds. Black bears have feeding territories, in which they wander a certain route over the course of a week or so. These feeding territories are chosen based the presence of competing bears, as well as the availability of food. The bears emerge from their dens in late May, very hungry, and immediately begin their summer-long quest for food. With the exception of the grizzly bear, all of the photos in this gallery were photographed in our yard.

In the hundreds of encounters I've had with black bears, I've only been attacked one time, and it was due to my having food exposed when it should have been sealed and stowed better. I say this to caution people to photograph bears from a safe distance and having access to, and knowledge of proper bear defense, such as UDAP-approved bear spray. When coexisting with wildlife, we must respect their right to the land in which they live and tread responsibly while in their presence.