Teddy Bears or 80 pounds of muscle with knife-sharp claws? These Alaskan Brown Bear Cubs are play fighting–an exercise that builds strength and teaches them how to protect themselves. Acting a lot like human siblings, they push, grab, bite and then hug. The match is silent. If it were a real fight, they would howl, scream and cry much bear vocabulary. Their mother watches nearby. If they get too aggressive, she bounds over and swats them. Just five months ago she bore and nursed them in a winter den. For the next year, she will protect them from adult male bears and teach them to pry open clams and fish for salmon in Alaska’s glacial rivers.
These images were taken during a “bear walk” in Katmai National Park Alaska. Float planes departing from Anchorage and Homer take small groups of photographers over the Aleutian Volcanos to the grassy meadows at Hallo Bay. The planes land on the beach, and guides escort visitors for three-hour hikes among the giant brown bears.