Capturing European Big 5 – part 3: The Bears of Viiksimo

In my attempt to capture the European Big 5 this year, I traveled to Finland, close to the Russian border, to photograph Brown Bears and hopefully Wolverines. After arriving, the weird daily rhythm starts; diner at three in the afternoon, in the early evening heading for the hides, returning before breakfast and sleep until diner at three. Don’t expect to get enough sleep in these days, you won’t.

The first evening in the bear hide was quite successful, five bears all evening close to the hide. Probably because a film crew, of a well known organisation, bought a fresh carcass of an Elk to get some juicy footage. Apparently they paid 800 euros for a roadkill to let their film look as natural as possible. So that’s how it works… The last day they ran out of carcasses, so half a pig was wrapped in an Elk-skin… at least it looked natural for a while. I’ll probably never look at their documentaries the same way again, but lucky us, it did attract a lot of bears, including some nice photo opportunities with natural bear-behaviour.

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During the next couple of days I stayed in the big observation hide, the smaller hides in the swamp were a bit hard to reach, at least, if you wanted to keep your feet dry in the freezing cold. One of the filmers actually developed a way to get to the small hides with dry clothes; when I looked out of the window to see if there were any bears already, I saw a guy walking through the snow in his underwear and gloves on his feet (No, I’m not joking!), film camera on one shoulder and other stuff on the other. Definitely not what you want to see on a trip to see some bears.

In the end I actually advised the filmers on a film location with wolves. It seemed to be quite difficult to find wolves in a natural environment, other than a wildlife park. Over breakfast I bluntly said that I knew a few wolves that might do the trick. Showed them a few pictures of the wolves in Belarus and contact details were exchanged. So chances are the big old wolf of Krasny Bor will be starring in a NatGeo documentary next year.

A photographic overview of the Brown bears. We did spot a Wolverine running around the edge of the swamp as well. No good photos, but at least I saw one!

A bear approaching….

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Fighting over the Elk carcass

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Reminding the young bear, who’s in charge

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Pole dancing

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And some pretty pictures

And last but not least…. a really bad picture of the Wolverine 🙂

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More photos can be found with this link

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