My first tribute to our missing Chilkoot mama bear named Speedy, was very well received by her many fans. As such I feel compelled to expand upon the original offering and include many photos that did not make the first cut. I started compiling these photos a few weeks ago and had delayed adding comments and quips. I am now compelled to complete the task with the arrival of sad news.
Obituary for Speedy
Fans are crushed today to hear that, in fact, Speedy the bear was killed around this time in 2019 by a hunter. According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game, it was a legal hunt and harvest. In my heart I knew Speedy was gone, but now my heart feels broken. She did not “pass on” but was “taken.” The killing of this special bear was within the right by state law. It still feels quite wrong to many of us. Speedy was the most gracious, patient, well-mannered and even-tempered bear on the Chilkoot. While other bears shy away from the presence of humans, Speedy could and would appear at any time of day to the joy and delight of many locals and visitors. She was a good mother and brought four sets of cubs into the world. No doubt she brought countless visitors to Haines, eager for the chance to experience Alaskan wildlife in their own habitat.
I feel like I have lost a cherished family member.
Speedy always seemed to have a smile. She is here with her spring cub, the first of four families she raised in the ten years I followed her.
One of the things I do not miss in the year 2020 is the crush of tourism and visitors who needed monitoring. In the shot above this group of independent tourists gathered on the river bank to get the best possible shot and watched as Speedy’s cubs approached. Two of the photographers can be seen watching Speedy in the river. Not wise to be that close to a bear’s cubs, but Speedy made it easy to disregard better judgement.
A composite of one of Speedy’s yearlings playing in the river, as if he was practicing Tai Chi.
My advice to photo guests has been that if you see a bear and it is not moving, it is a rock. If you see a rock and it is moving, it is a bear. Sometimes it is both.
In 2012 Speedy kicked her two cubs out of the den to fend for themselves. For many weeks they played together around the mouth of the Chilkoot River before one wandered off for an unfortunate new adventure. (Story told in https://timenspace.net/2020/09/02/chilkoot-bear-a-celebration-of-the-life-of-speedy/). Here is a set of shots of some of their “play” time.
Sometimes the rules just do not apply.
Bears will continue to nurse into their second year.
I’ll just hide among these rocks … no one will notice me here!
Speedy was looking real happy to have something other than fish for a change. A local had dumped a moose carcass off the local bridge and it did not take Speedy long to find the treat.
Of course halibut is even better yet! Same bridge, same story. Speedy was not great at fishing, but she sure could scavenge.
One of Speedy’s third set, one day to be known as “Lulu” kicking back with some salmon
I was watching this pair of cubs playing on the grass, when suddenly a flock of mergansers flew by behind them, causing them to stand and turn and watch the unusual procession. In light of what I have said earlier about being too close to cubs, I made this shot from the road using a very big lens and cropped the shot to give a sense of proximity. “Far from it” as they say.
The conventional wisdom tells us, if attacked by bear, lay down and play dead.
Speedy’s cub Lulu is almost as big as mom in 2015
Speedy was always very patient and accommodating of people who were in her “space.”
What mattered was not so much the bear herself as what the bear implied. She was the predominant thing in that country, and for her to be in it at all meant that there had to be more country like it in every direction and more of the same kind of country all around that. She implied a world. -John McPhee
Marco …… Speedy would often “swim” around the mouth of the Chilkoot Lake in the shallows, feeling for fish below.
“Bears are not companions of men, but children of God, and His charity is broad enough for both. Yet bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain…” – John Muir
I think you might have a little salad stuck between your teeth.
Mama bear “Speedy” enjoys a cool swim on a hot summer day at Chilkoot Lake; also feeling around for easy fish.
Putting on some winter weight. Late in the season, bears go into a period known as hyperphagia when they eat 24/7 to gain the weight necessary for hibernation. They will prefer the brains and eggs of salmon as they have the highest fat content. If successful at putting on reserves, Speedy may give birth to her fourth clan.
SUCCESS! Speedy returns with three cubs. Her largest clan yet.
Holiday at the lake, ready to be served. Who has the burgers?
Autumn splendor on the Chilkoot River, enjoying the bounty of coho and chum salmon runs.
It is the last day of access to Chilkoot State Park (presumably according to earlier reports the road to the park will be closed for repairs .. though I am inclined to doubt that is going to happen). I wanted to take advantage of (hopefully) being able to get a parting shot of “Speedy.” We did well, and enjoyed being alone with our favorite bear in the solitude of the Chilkoot corridor .. a place of quiet magic sometimes. It was a special time.
It turns out sadly that this was to be my last, and parting shot of a favored soul.
As I watched Rainbow Glacier one day I imagined seeing a bear spirit in the rock and ice. Two holes in the ice were clearly eyes, the bedrock below her snout. Her classic smile was even expressed in the outcrop. This composite was easy to arrange.
Farewell, dear friend.
Many of the photos and quotes are from my book: Bearoness of the Chilkoot; The book of Speedy. If you would like to preview its contents you can do so at: https://www.blurb.com/b/8935417-bearoness-of-the-chilkoot
Online prices for self publishing are somewhat prohibitive, but I am glad to offer the book at a discounted price if ordered directly from me. Other books can be similarly offered, and seen on my web:
I am happy to offer private nature and wildlife tours in the Chilkoot country and around Haines Alaska. https://timenspace.net/photography-workshop/chilkoot-river-private-tour-haines-alaska/