Yawning and wandering: Black bear family spotted in Northeast Anchorage

Do bears drool when they sleep? A little one sure seemed to when I spotted it while driving along Arctic Valley Road this week. I watched it for a few moments from 25 feet below. It seemed be waking up from a nap. Through a long telephoto lens, it seemed to slobber as it yawned.

I gave it lots of space as it climbed down and then ambled into the tall grass. A few minutes later, it had joined two more bears nearby. I'm guessing one was its mother and the other its sibling. None looked small enough to have been born this spring, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Notebook Series explains that black bear cubs stay with their mother through the first winter. Perhaps they are getting ready to part company.

Black bears are the smallest and most populous of the three species of bears found in Alaska, and they're a frequent visitor at the popular Moose Run Golf Course, which is close to where I saw these animals. But they're not necessarily predictable and are capable of predatory behavior. I made these pictures either from, or steps from, a parked car that was out of the roadway that I could retreat to, if necessary. I used a big lens to keep my distance and I had a can of bear spray in my camera bag.

Summertime is a great time to review the basics of how to be safe in bear country. Find great info in these stories by Laurel Andrews and Tegan Hanlon:

[Here are strategies for staying safe in bear country]

[How to use bear spray effectively]

Marc Lester

Marc Lester is a multimedia journalist for Anchorage Daily News. Contact him at mlester@adn.com.