Black Bear Expedition
Plymouth, NC. May 27 - 30, 2018
Black bears had been huge on my, must see it list of North American wildlife, for so very long. I visited a few hot spots looking for them in the California area, a couple years ago, but with no luck. So after some research I found out about the North Carolina black bears. This population of black bears is the biggest in the world, so I had to see them. I organized an exploratory trip with the SDM crew, out to the Plymouth region to see these bears - it was everything I hoped it would be. We visited a few areas for the bears, Alligator River NWR, was by far my favorite place to visit. I am looking forward to returning here to try and capture more images of these BIG beautiful bears.
We did a few of our searches for bears on foot, which was amazing and scary and special and my most favorite part of this trip. It was amazing to be out there in this very special place with the SDM crew, experiencing the magic of this wonderful place. We walked on trails that were deeply carved by the hundreds, if not thousands of bears that live in this area. We didn’t see any bears while on the trail walk, but damn was it exciting. During certain times of the year, hundreds of bears visit these woods…that’s when I am going back!
We walked through this thick wooded forest in the Pungo NWR, looking around for bears, our guide Tom showed us trees, which had the bark gnawed off of it, and deep gouges in them, where the bears scratched it up with their massive claws. They keep chewing on the same trees until the tree eventually falls down and dies. Then it becomes a bug haven, which the bears feed on.
A short video of the SDM crew’s three days with the bears.
We visited a private bear ranch while we were here in North Carolina. While driving around seeking out bears to photograph, we encountered a bobcat following a wild turkey. At the beginning of the trip, my daughter Sophia asked a couple of local photographers if they ever encounter bobcats here; one lady who has spent the past 45 years, studying and photographing the wildlife in this region, told her she has only seen two bobcats in all her years, both encounters were too quick for images. Our bear guide Tom Harrison has only seen bobcats two times as well, both times, fast and too dark for images. We were of course disappointed.
While driving around, I spotted the cat walking on a game trail, I got excited and told Tom to stop the truck. I jumped out of the truck with Sophia, and we slowly stalked after the cat. The cat we encountered, was walking away from us, when she spotted us, it stood their looking at us, then sat down. After a few quick moments, it stood up and ran off into the brush, but seconds later, it reemerged, then sat down, while meowing at us. She posed for a few more images then disappeared back into the thick brush. Tom was totally blown away. Maritza and David were in the truck with him, and through binoculars, we was narrating to them in disbelief what was happening, totally on fire. Such an awesome encounter.
This area was made famous for it’s work to try and bring back the red wolf populations. The population had started to rebound but is on the dcline again. Sadly most of the wolves have either been killed by cars, or hunters and so there are not a lot of these wolves left. We did find some wolf tracks but we didn’t see any. As of right now they decided to scratch the project, because the wolves that are left have started breeding with coyotes. The coyote population exploded because there was no wolves left to keep the population in check.