Katmai National Park drama: Bear vs. Eagles

Anchorage photographer Jeff Schultz and other guests of the Katmai Wilderness Lodge watched as a brown bear sow climbed into an eagle's nest and was divebombed by four eagles. The sow's three cubs watched closely. The encounter took approximately two minutes, and Schultz shot 244 frames of the action. Schultz, often known best for his work with the Iditarod, was in Katmai National Park and Preserve last week, scouting locations for a future photography workshop offering. "What a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME experience!" Schultz exclaimed in an email.

He and other lodge guests were on two six-passenger boats. They had seen the bears earlier in their visit, and at one point the sow was teaching her three offspring to swim in the bay. The day of the eagle encounter, the big bear was feeding on some grass high on a cliff for about five minutes when both bear and boat passengers saw a bald eagle nest just below the sow and the cubs. There was an eagle in the nest. The bear moved toward the nest.

The eagle did what it could to defend the nest by stretching its wings. And then another eagle divebombed the sow. And for the next couple of minutes there was a huge amount of commotion.

Two other eagles joined in the divebombing of the sow while a raven divebombed the flying eagles. "We were too low to know if the bear had actually eaten the eggs or chicks," Schultz said. "We debated it long and hard the rest of the day. How could she not eat them?!  But the eagles came back right away after the bear left and stayed. The next day there was an eagle on the nest again, so we're thinking the eggs or chicks survived."