Wildlife in Finland Day Two scroll down for the story

After spending the night in a very hot hide (45 to 50 degrees centigrade) with no ventilation by the lake, we had breakfast and an opportunity to get some sleep. The breakfast was very welcome after the sandwiches in the night made with rye bread and salami. Apparently rye bread and salami are very popular with Finnish people. It must be an acquired taste. I took the opportunity to get some sleep after breakfast. It was going to be a long night and I wanted to make sure that I was awake when the bears appeared. We shared the hides, taking it in turns to be by the lake, by the forest and by the swamp. My first night was in a hide by the lake. We had not seen bears in the lake itself or in the morning mist but we had seen wild brown bears, and we had seen bear cubs. Not something that everyone can say.

For night two I would be sharing a hide with another member of the group in the forest. I had made sure that I got some sleep during the day as there was no way that I was going to go to sleep in the forest. One of the couple who spent the previous night in the hide in the forest told me that she had fallen asleep in the chair near one of the holes through which we put the camera lenses, and had been woken up when a bear had put its arm through the hole and touched her arm with its paws. There was no way that I was going to go to sleep with that possibility.

Mother brown bear sitting with her cubs in the forest
Brown bear cooled down after a mud bath

Unlike the walk to the lake hide through the forest which was short - probably about 200 metres into the forest from the drop-off point, the walk to the forest hide was a long arduous walk of about a mile across tree roots, tree trunks lain across the ground to stop us getting our feet wet in swamp like areas, and up and down. It was a pleasant hike although of course we were all laden with too much camera equipment (is there such a thing as too much camera equipment?). We saw toads and lots of mosquitoes. Apparently there were not many mosquitoes as it was too hot for them. There seemed to be a lot of them to me. We were all prepared with our mozzy spray.

After walking for what seemed for ever (it was probably only 20 minutes) we finally got to the hide near the swamp. I would be in that hide on night 3. We dropped off people in those hides and continued our journey in the forest to the forest hide. We were told that the brown bears usually congregated in the forest area, moved to the swamp area and then ended up in the lake hide area. That is why we had waited so long for the bears to appear at the lake hide. We were told that almost certainly there would be bears in the forest hide area already. The guide was right. As we approached the hide there were some Finnish guides next to a group of brown bears munching dog biscuits. The guides did not seem too concerned and that gave me some comfort. But these were big brown bears in the forest and they were not very far away. The guide told us to get in the hide quickly and not stop to take photos. That was an instruction that I found very easy to follow. No way did I want to spend ANY time in that forest with the bears without the protection of a hide. Brown bears are dangerous and can kill people!

Brown Bear Cub

It was surreal. There were brown bears everywhere in the forest area and I can see why Robert Canis had told us that we would need a shorter lens (a 70-200 mm zoom) for this area. We were very close to the bears. Sometimes too close to get a photo. We could hear them breathing, snorting and munching food. Too close for comfort.

Brown Bear Cub in the forest
Brown bear cub just in front of the hide - within touching distance.
Bear Cub
Two Bear Cubs

The two bear cubs were seemingly on their own. Just out of sight the mother was keeping watch.

Brown bear sitting in the shade of the forest
The brown bear had seen something
Mother bear with her bear cub.
Mother brown bear trying to keep cool
Brown bear walking in the Taiga Forest
Brown Bear Sitting Down in the Taiga Forest

Somewhere in the forest area there was a mud area. We never saw it but the bears used it to cool down in and it helped create interesting photographs. Brown bears seem to be very sociable. Adult male bears are huge but seemed very wary of mother brown bears which were much smaller but were protecting their young cubs.

Brown bear after a mud bath
The Brown Bear Cub
Wonderful light on the brown bear in the Finnish Taiga Forest
Brown Bear
Brown Bear
Showing Teeth
The Mother Brown Bear Got Up and we realised just how big she was. Bears do not look so big when they are sitting down!
Brown Bear Cub
Female Brown Bear with cubs just out of sight
Brown bear walking in the forest
Brown bear cooling down after a mud bath
Brown bear roaming in the Taiga Forest
Brown bear looking very hot and bothered
Female bear with bear cubs
Bear showing sharp teeth
Bear sitting on the ground trying to keep cool
Brown bear showing teeth
Mother bear and cub
Lots of bears playing in the forest just in front of the hide
Don't look back in anger.
Brown bear walks in the forest in glorious sunlight
Bear Cub

It was very hot in the hide and we were very tired. This was our second night awake photographing bears. But it was worth it. I never believed that I would ever get that close to bears. Too close in fact. Closer and they might have eaten us!

Back for breakfast and prepare ourselves for the last night - in the hide near the swamp!


Philip Pound www.philippound.co.uk

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