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Zealandia Blog

Ancient Ivory Jewelry Inspired by Nature

  • Dragonfly Jewelry Inspired by Fascinating Odonates

    Dragonfly Jewelry

    There is something easy to love about dragonflies. It's more than just their acrobatic flying and rich iridescent colors; their metamorphosis from nymph to adult signifies self-change and offers a sense of renewal. Dragonflies represent purity, speed, agility, and although they look rather delicate, they are actually quite robust. Dragonfly jewelry is a powerful symbol to carry with you and is a meaningful way to connect to the natural world around you.

    Dragonfly Jewelry Dragonfly II - made with 14kt gold fill, sterling silver, paua shell, and fossilized walrus ivory.

    Metamorphosis of Dragonflies

    Dragonfly eggs hatch into aquatic nymphs, which then grow for anywhere between two weeks to five years, depending on the size of the species. They molt up to 15 times as they grow, before finally exiting the water and molting one last time into a mature dragonfly with wings.

    An adult dragonfly lives for only a few weeks, having spent the vast majority of its life as a water-dwelling nymph. Seeing a dragonfly is even more magical now, isn’t it? Now that you know it had an expansive aquatic lifetime leading to the narrow window of time in which you caught a glimpse of it zipping through the air. Nature’s timing is a beautiful thing to witness.

    Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Lao Tzu

    Dragonfly jewelry Dragonfly Dreams pin and pendant made with 14kt gold fill, paua shell, fossilized walrus ivory, and sterling silver

    Looking For a New Hobby?

    As far as their scientific classification, dragonflies are part of the Odonata order. Dragonflies are sought out as a hobby, much like bird-watching, and the practice is known as oding. Of the 457 species of odonates, 225 have been observed in Texas. So if you’re really looking for some odonata sightings, grab a field guide and head to the lone star state. Some of the dragonfly names are fantastic: Spiny Baskettail, Flame Skimmer, Pacific Spiketail, Widow Skimmer – they sound like they could be real dragons, don’t they?

    Damselflies are also part of the odonata order. Dragonflies and damselflies are very similar and often mistaken for one another. However, this article does an excellent job explaining the four distinct visual differences between dragonflies and damselflies: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/how-tell-difference-between-dragonfly-and-damselfly

    Indicators of a Healthy Ecosystem

    Adult dragonflies have extremely good eyesight and are exceptional fliers. They can even fly backwards! Their strong, agile flight makes them a fierce predator of many insects, including pesky mosquitoes. A dragonfly can consume as much as a fifth of its body weight in just one day! They are definitely a “good bug” to have around.

    Because they consume many insects and are consumed by many animals, dragonflies are an important species to the health of many ecosystems. They are also a good indicator of water quality. Some call them the “canary” of waterways for their sensitivity to pollution, as they rely on clean water for their eggs and nymphs.

    There is much to be learned from the world around us and there are so many creatures willing to teach us. Observation and admiration are a good start to understanding the delicate web that ties us all together. At Zealandia Designs we are continuously motivated and inspired by the natural world and we hope you find connection and personal meaning in the jewelry we create.

    Dragonfly Jewelry Tribal Dragonfly - made with sterling silver and hand-carved fossilized walrus ivory

    Shop Our Dragonfly Jewelry Collection

  • Sea Turtle Jewelry and Conservation

    Zealandia Design's Turtle Jewelry

    ocean dreams Fossilized Walrus Tusk and Blue Topaz - "Ocean Dreams"

    Zealandia’s turtle jewelry collection has been a highlight of the line for many years. Collectors connect with this totemic animal for its very special symbolism. The turtle has come to represent grounding, emotional balance, age-old wisdom, and persistence. Turtles carve a peaceful and graceful path through life. They cross the barrier between land and water with ease, and they epitomize a kind of knowing that we can sense in their serene, wizened faces.

    We have long been enchanted with the sea turtle's ancient wisdom and gracious, gentle soul. We adore sea turtles here at Zealandia Designs; our turtle jewelry is inspired by the beautiful patterns of turtle shells, by their peaceful determination, and their patient, easy-going nature.

    Sea Turtle Reminders

    Our hand carved turtle jewelry is created with natural materials, which makes each piece truly one-of-a-kind. Turtles remind us to be deliberate with our decisions and to be patient as we work toward our long-term goals. Turtle jewelry can be a helpful reminder to ease your pace and enjoy the journey.

    Turtles inhabit nearly all the earth’s ocean basins which give them a rich history and presence in many cultures. Turtles are an emblem of longevity (they can live 100+ years) and they symbolize good health, determination and are often depicted as wise and laid back. With so many desirable attributes, it’s easy to see why they have played such a prominent role in so many cultures across the globe, from sacred folk lore to fairy tales to cartoons.hawaiian-green-sea-turtle-1-1482511-1279x862

    Fascinating Facts about Sea Turtles:

    *Sea turtles are one of Earth’s most ancient animals. The seven extant species alive today have been around for 110 million years.

    *The shell of a turtle is made up of smaller plates called “scutes” (there’s a good NYT crossword puzzle answer for you!), which shed thin scales as the shell grows.

    *Leatherback sea turtles can travel more than 10,000 miles per year.

    *Sea turtles have temperature-dependant sex determination, which means the temperature of the nest environment determines the developing turtles sex.

    *Males never leave the water; females come ashore only to lay eggs and most will return to the same nesting site from which they were born.

    *Sea turtles lay around 100 eggs at a time and on average only one of these will survive into adulthood.

    scubadiving-safari-in-the-red-sea-egypt-8-1346311-638x445

    Of the seven species of sea turtles, five are classified as endangered. They are threatened by commercial fishing, ocean pollution, climate change, coastal development and are avidly hunted by humans for their shells, meat, skin and eggs. Zealandia Designs regularly donates to many conservation groups who are committed to stop the decline of sea turtles, including World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, Ocean Conservancy, and Defenders of Wildlife.

    “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall

  • What Causes the Coloration in Fossilized Ivory?

    At Zealandia Designs we specialize in making beautiful nature-inspired jewelry, primarily using ancient mammoth and fossilized walrus ivory. The naturally occurring colors of the ivory we use varies significantly from piece to piece, giving each one a truly unique appearance. The reason behind the coloration in fossilized ivory is an interesting one!

    What is the difference between fossilized mammoth and walrus ivory?

    Sometimes a certain design is specifically suited to a darker or lighter color and we purposely choose which kind of ivory is used. For example, when it comes to the polar bear pieces, we want them to be relatively consistent shades of creamy white, so we prefer to use only pale colored fossilized mammoth ivory. If you look closely, you can still certainly see different patterns and textures in this ivory, but the overall coloring is quite similar.

    coloration in fossilized ivory “Vanishing Ice Cap” – made with ancient mammoth ivory

    Fossilized mammoth ivory tends to be shades of pale cream and white but can also be found in darker colors.  Ancient walrus ivory, on the other hand, often appears in shades of cream, caramel, umber or cocoa. The display of color in the ivory enhances the piece by making it truly unique.

    When a jewelry piece is created with fossilized ivory, it takes on a unique presentation that makes it one-of-a-kind. We encourage our customers to develop an eye for the different coloration in the fossilized ivory and appreciate how extraordinary it makes each piece. If you prefer an ivory that has more brown, cream or white tones to it, please be sure to let us know and we’ll do our best to accommodate if the option is available for that style. This can be particularly fun when it comes to certain pieces, like our cat collection – most folks would want to match their favorite feline, right? Look how widely the coloring varies in these cats:

    coloration in fossilized ivory “Mischief” – made with fossilized walrus ivory

    Here is another style, in fossilized mammoth like the light colored polar bears, but with a wider variety of coloration:

    coloration in fossilized ivory “Turtle Spirit” – made with ancient mammoth ivory

    What causes the different coloration in fossilized ivory?

    Fossilized ivory spends most of its long life underground, in close contact with a variety of minerals. The minerals leech into the ivory, causing it to slowly accrete coloration. Depending on the immediate soil surrounding the animal and the length of time it was buried, the mineralization of the ivory takes on different hues of brown, tan, beige, and grey.

    Minerals and related color hues:
    carbon – black
    cobalt – green/blue
    chromium – green/blue
    copper – green/blue
    iron oxides – red, brown, and yellow
    manganese – pink/orange
    manganese oxides – black

    Where does our fossilized walrus ivory come from?

    The native Yupik of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, have the exclusive right to gather the fossilized walrus ivory we use in our designs. This precious ancient material is an important part of the Yupik's economy and heritage, and it is the inspiration behind many of our most beloved jewelry pieces. After centuries lying buried in darkness, it comes to light in these gorgeous designs that showcases the varied coloration in fossilized ivory. Each piece is hand carved, with uniquely pigmented ivory, resulting in an exceptionally original piece of jewelry.

    fossilized walrus ivory, Zealandia Designs Fossilized walrus ivory from a buying trip to St. Lawrence
  • Bear Jewelry Inspiration

    Zealandia offers several varieties of fossilized ivory bear jewelry; bears have meaningful totemic messages that resonate year-round and continue to call our attention.

    Fossilized Ivory Bear Jewelry

    When it’s cold outside and the days are short, something deep within us longs to snuggle under a warm blanket and get a few more hours of sleep. We aren’t alone in these seasonal rhythms; bears are well-known to sleep in dens for months on end and emerge with the spring thaw. The days of deep sleep offer time to contemplate and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.  The polar bear, in particular, represents courage, purity of spirit, strength, and the solitude so often associated with the inner journey.

    Shaman Bear Shaman Bear - Mammoth Ivory Polar Bear Pin or Pendant, Handmade Silver

    Our bear jewelry is carved from fossilized mammoth ivory, which is an ideal material because the white and creamy tones are a perfect match to the polar bear’s translucent coat. Wearing a piece of bear jewelry can help remind you to balance time for quiet meditation and time to be bold and protective.

     

    Bear Jewelry On a Mission

    A polar bear’s habitat range is hundreds of miles, which is far greater than any other species of bear. Polar bears rely on sea ice platforms to hunt seals, and although polar bears are highly adaptive to seasonal changes in sea ice formation, global warming has caused such significant changes that polar bears have been added to the vulnerable species list. That means their population is decreasing, headed straight toward being classified as an endangered species.

    We are passionately aware of the threatened ecosystem in the Arctic and feel compelled to participate in the fundraising efforts of philanthropic groups. Every year Zealandia donates to various organizations including Environmental Defense Fund and Ocean Conservancy, among others. Ocean Conservancy shared a fun fact about polar bears: they can swim up to 6 miles per hour and Michael Phelps swims up to about 3.92 miles per hour. Amazing!

    Vanishing Ice Cap Vanishing Ice Cap - Fossilized Mammoth Ivory and Mother of Pearl Necklace Pendant or Pin

    Jenny travels annually to Alaska to spend time with the Katmai brown bears and much of our bear jewelry line is inspired by them. Polar bears are another important inspiration for our bear jewelry and Jenny is quite concerned about their shrinking habitat. 'Vanishing Ice Cap' is a necklace pin/pendant she designed with this growing concern in mind. The pin/pendant is a layered piece with sterling silver mountains and water in the background, mother of pearl representing the sea ice, and on top is a beautiful polar bear carved in fossilized mammoth ivory. It's a stunning piece to add to our bear jewelry collection, and the message it carries is a heartfelt reminder of the impact we can have on our planet.

    We all have the ability to change the world for the better; it’s up to each of us to realize our potential and summon the courage to participate.polar-bears-1400264

    See our full collection of Bear Jewelry

  • Tis the Season for Hummingbird Jewelry

    We don’t tend to associate hummingbirds with the holiday season (unless, of course, you’re gifting a loved with some hummingbird jewelry or another hummingbird-inspired gift). Hummingbirds are fair weather creatures due to their migration patterns that take them to warmer skies at this time of the year. But as it turns out, hummingbirds are uniquely suited to the spirit of the holiday season.

    hummingbird jewelry, silver hummingbird necklace

    Hummingbird symbolism—or its role as a totemic animal—is important to the many people who connect with the hummingbird and what it has come to represent. At this time of year when we are reflecting on the blessings in our lives, and enjoying time with loved ones, the hummingbird’s inherent lightness of being and joie de vivre are especially appealing. The hummingbird evokes joy wherever it flies, as well as a sense of play.

    silver hummingbird jewelry, Zealandia Designs

    And much like the holiday season, the hummingbird represents a break from the ordinary—a spark of beauty and unabashed delight. Our designers have sought to capture this spirit in our hummingbird jewelry collection, which features hummingbird solitaires, flocks of hummingbirds, hummingbird earrings, and this tiny bird in a variety of creative semi-precious stone settings.

    Hummingbird Jewelry Symbolism

    Do you have a treasured talisman you wear that has come to mean so much more to you than simply a necklace or bracelet you picked up years ago? A talisman can be anything from a simple initial pendant on a chain to an elaborate ring you inherited from your great-aunt Deedee the renowned snake milker (yes, that’s a thing – Google it).

    A talisman in there to remind us of values or qualities that we hold dear in our lives. It may symbolize recreation, power under pressure, or true, enduring love. A talisman also helps to draw these qualities to us as a sort of magnet for the positivity we hope to attract.

    Each of our hummingbird pendants and earring sets was created to become a kind of talisman for its owner. But who wears hummingbird jewelry? Are these people simply enthralled with the micro-sized bird and its singular beauty?

    Not necessarily. You may choose to wear a piece of hummingbird jewelry to invite lightness, sensitivity, and graceful movement into your life. It’s difficult to put on a delicate hummingbird necklace without being reminded of this bird’s larger than life presence in our world.

    hummingbird

    hummingbird jewelry hummingbird pendant

    The hummingbird also gives the bee a run for its money as one of our planet’s great pollinators, playing an integral part in our food chain. And as the specific movement of its wings borrows from the insect world, it has the power to hover in midair for as long as it chooses. For us the hummingbird represents the abundance of nature that is available to all of us, and the keen-eyed awareness to see it.

  • Bee Jewelry and Environmental Awareness

    Written by: Anna

    Zealandia’s bee jewelry collection is more than an offering of unforgettable pendants, earrings, and bracelets created around the beautiful bee. Our bee jewelry was inspired by founder Jenny Byrne’s concern for the global decline in honeybee populations. She felt compelled to celebrate bees through handcrafted jewelry while highlighting this precious insect and all that it does for our planet.

    Honeybee populations have been on the decline for some time now. What has been termed Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder is still not completely understood by experts, but environmental factors and weather changes are undoubtedly playing a part. The honeybee is critical in supporting the food chain through pollination. Honeybees cross pollinate more than 100 fruits and vegetables that comprise a significant portion of our diet.

    Here at Zealandia we actively donate to various organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, among others. These organizations do important work in raising awareness for declining honeybee populations. The WWF’s Adopt a Honeybee program directly funnels donations toward this cause, which is gaining momentum in the public consciousness. The more aware we are of our part in preserving the honeybee and stopping the destruction of bee habitats, the faster we can reverse this alarming trend.

    Bee Jewelry on a Mission

    Zealandia jewelry is uniquely inspired by the natural world, and our bee jewelry is no exception. Our designers’ trademark take on realistic and artistically rendered animal designs have earned Zealandia multiple awards over the years for design excellence.

    Our Bee Mandala pendant was awarded a prestigious Designer Jewelry Showcase First Place Silver Designer of the Year Award in 2011. This piece in particular brings together the natural world and the spiritual, another Zealandia hallmark. It takes the honeybee as its subject, and the Buddhist/Hindu mandala as its framework.

    Bee jewelry, bee mandala Zealandia Designs

    The mandala represents the universe, wholeness, and divine structure in the Buddhist/Hindu traditions. It is circular, echoing the symbolism we associate with bees—namely community and service in good of the whole. Our bee jewelry reminds many wearers of the bee’s selfless life and the effortless way it co-exists in community.

    Monk and mandala A monk works carefully on a section of a sand mandala.
    Image credit: Wayne Dodge, freeimages.com

    We can all take a lesson from the bee. Many of us choose to wear or carry something that reminds us of the tiny bee’s vast, inspiring presence in our world.

    flower mandala Zealandia Designs bee jewelry Flower mandala, Bali.
  • Awe and Grandeur at Matanuska Glacier

    Written by: Jenny

    One of Alaska’s best kept secrets is the opportunity to camp at Matanuska Glacier. If asked to name my top 5 campsites in the world, Matanuska would be on that list. Along with Brooks Camp, Katmai, of course. This recent Parade magazine article about awe perfectly sums up my feelings on the power of nature to transform, recharge, and inspire us.

    Matanuska Glacier distant view

    Our favorite campsite at Matanuska Glacier is perched on top of a moraine, the glacier’s face and the reflective melt lake at our feet. The unbelievable vista spreads out before us like a gift.

    Matanuska Glacier terminus

    This glacier, the largest of Alaska’s glaciers accessible by car, is some 26 miles long and about 4 miles wide at the terminus where we camp. It flows at the rate of about a foot a day, like a vast and solid river through the valley. Our camp is perfectly situated to take in spectacular sunsets above its pristine sparkle. The descending light seems to last forever because of the languid dip of Alaska’s midnight sun.

    Jenny Byrne jewelry designer, Zealandia Designs

    The owners of the campground run the concessions at the glacier, and there is a fee to camp, plus a fee to access the glacier. There are guided tours, or visitors are free to walk out on the glacier unguided if they prefer. Weekends can be busy with climbing groups and tours, but week days are relatively quiet.

    Glacial Art

    We carry some lightweight crampons that we strap on, and then venture out for hours at a time, exploring. The ice patterns, sculpted ice forms, deep blue crevasses, lakes and mirror image reflections are mesmerizing. Even the muddy walk out to the glacier is fascinating with patterns I call “mud blooms” decorating the glacial silt.

    Matanuska Glacier mud, Zealandia Designs

    Matanuska Glacier mud blooms, Zealandia Designs

    Hiking Matanuska Glacier, Zealandia Designs

    Matanuska Glacier up close

    Glacial ice Matanuska Glacier, Zealandia Designs

    Blue ice Matanuska Glacier, Zealandia Designs

    The light is constantly changing, from overcast to brilliant blue skies and sunshine, morning light to alpine glow. The same scene never looks the same twice. Add in the expanses of magenta wildflowers and the golden glow of grass seeds and this is a place to take your breath away. Truly awe-some.

    And as awesome as the day is, my favorite time is 9 pm, when the glacier closes and everyone goes home. Except for us campers, that is. Amazingly, for 2 of the 3 nights we camped here we were the only people who stayed overnight. On the third night a campsite about 1/8 mile away was occupied, but otherwise we have all this beauty and solitude to ourselves. Sheer bliss.

    Matanuska Glacier camping, Zealandia Designs

    The camping is basic: no running water and outhouses for toilets. We have to take everything in with us, but it’s no price to pay for all of this. I’d recommend you visit as soon as you can, but that would mean I’d have to share. ;)

    Happy (glacial) trails, Jenny

  • Uncovering the Truth About Fossilized Ivory

    Written by: Anna

    Occasionally we hear from people who are concerned about the use of fossilized ivory in our jewelry designs. With so much justified outrage over the abominable new ivory trade, we felt it was time to clarify the materials used in our beloved jewelry designs and our continued commitment to wildlife conservation.

    We exclusively use fossilized walrus ivory (between 300 and 5,000 years old) and ancient mammoth ivory (over 10,000 years old) in Zealandia jewelry. No living animal is harmed in the sourcing of this ancient ivory, and we are passionately against the new ivory trade that continues the senseless slaughter of our precious animal populations.

    What is Fossilized Walrus Ivory?

    Many of our jewelry designs are created with fossilized walrus ivory which is gathered on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea off the north west coast of Alaska. The fossilized walrus ivory is between 300 and 5,000 years old, and it comes from the tusks of animals that died long ago. Bits of their tusks find their way into the earth and lie buried for centuries, accreting a variety of cream to caramel and cocoa hues from nearby minerals.

    Zealandia’s founder and lead designer, Jenny Byrne, fell in love with this rich material several decades ago. Its unparalleled quality and sense of history inspired the Zealandia jewelry line that today is beloved the world over for our craftsmanship and totemic themes.

    fossilized walrus ivory, Zealandia Designs Fossilized walrus ivory in varying shades.

    The native Yupik Eskimo people on St. Lawrence Island rely on the fossilized walrus ivory trade as a vital part of their economy. Zealandia owners Jenny and Chuck visited the island a few years ago on a buying trip to source the finest fossilized walrus ivory from the gracious Yupik.  As there were no hotels in St. Lawrence's Savoonga village, they had to find a local Yupik willing to rent a room in his house.

    fossilized walrus ivory buying trip, Yupik St. Lawrence Island Alaska

     

    Their kind host allowed them to set up shop in his mud room. Once word went out that Zealandia was buying and paying a very fair price, there was a line outside the door. Because of Alaska's 24 hours of summer daylight the Yupik sellers were still waiting outside at 2:00 in the morning. At last Jenny hung a closed for business sign on the door to steal a few hours of sleep.

    fossilized walrus ivory buying trip, St. Lawrence Island Alaska, Yupik Jenny and Chuck paid a premium price to the sellers and enjoyed an excellent relationship with them.

    The fossilized walrus ivory is gathered on St. Lawrence Island at specific dig sites, on the island’s beaches where it is washed up, and on a nearby smaller island that is only accessible to the natives. Any visitor to St. Lawrence is strictly prohibited from taking so much as a stone away with them without permission or as part of a sale/trade agreement. This land is protected for the Yupik’s exclusive use, and it is their home.

    The island is closer to Siberia than to Alaska. It is believed to be perhaps the largest above-water example of the ancient land bridge that once joined Asia and North America many millennia ago.

    fossilized ivory dig on St. Lawrence Island A Yupik woman takes Chuck out the dig site for a first-hand look at their work.
    St. Lawrence Island Alaska Fossilizing marine animal bones in the foreground and mountains in the distance on treeless St. Lawrence Island.
    St. Lawrence Island, Alaska Yupik fishing boat A more traditional Yupik fishing boat pictured near a modern aluminum-sided version. Walrus and fish are still a staple of the Yupik diet, although sugar and processed foods are now a ubiquitous favorite.

    Other Fossilized Ivories

    Select Zealandia jewelry styles are made with ancient mammoth ivory that dates back over 10,000 years to when the last of the mammoths roamed the earth. Mammoth ivory is typically whiter than the more earthy fossilized walrus ivory. For this reason, mammoth ivory works well in certain designs that look best with a higher contrast pale ancient ivory against the sterling silver settings we use.

    A big part of Jenny’s mission at Zealandia is to give back to the wildlife conservation causes that help combat the new ivory trade and preserve the world’s species for generations to come. For more on Zealandia’s philanthropic commitments, please visit our Giving Back page.

    We feel that the use of ancient fossilized ivories helps to combat the new ivory trade by providing a gorgeous alternative to new ivory that in no way harms any living animal. This, and the fact that fossilized ivory is a vital part of native economies, ensures that we are doing our part to offer a beautiful and ethical product that can be enjoyed by everyone for years to come.

  • Katmai Bears 2016, Continued… Into the Drink

    Written by: Jenny

    The bonus of my deep love for the Katmai brown bears is that I get to watch them at Brooks Camp, one of the most beautiful campgrounds I know. The camp is right on the edge of the lake, which is ringed with snow-capped mountains and clouds that form and dissipate. The lake’s waters change from glacial turquoise to a vivid blue and then to gray and menacing. The view of this pristine lake is never the same twice.

    Brooks camp Katmai Alaska Visitors to Brooks Camp arrive via sea plane.
    Katmai bear camp Brooks camp High water floats all the pumice off the beach creating what is known as a “pumice cloud.”

    As soon as the salmon began to run there were lots of male bears below Brooks Falls, all grabbing for the leaping fish. But there were no bears to be seen fishing on the lip of the falls – a spot that is traditionally the professional photographers’ favorite shot.

    It’s the females that usually take their positions at the top of the falls, but this year the mamas were all wary of the males because of their new cubs. The females kept a wide radius between their families and the males that would happily kill a vulnerable cub to mate with its mother. For a time we saw only the solitary males, and I started to wonder if the sows and cubs would make a showing.

    Katmai bears 2016 and fish Pouncing for his supper

    Finally bear 410 arrived with her 2 yearling cubs. She must have felt the males were adequately preoccupied catching fish below the falls so she parked her cubs on the water’s edge and ventured out onto the lip of the waterfall, directly above the area known as the “Jacuzzi.”

    The larger of her cubs watched mom catch and eat a couple of fish. The cub leaned further and further out over the falls in its desire to participate, and when he could stand it no longer waded out to join mom on the lip. We held our breath, expecting the cub to be swept over and into the Jacuzzi, right smack in the middle of the current alpha male’s favored fishing spot. Amazingly, this ballsy little would-be fisherman not only held his ground, he started stealing mom’s fish as she caught them! At last mama lost her patience and turned on him, driving him to stand back and show a little respect.

    Katmai bear cubs on falls, katmai bears 2016 Leeeeaning out.
    Katmai bears 2016 fishing Mama and her cheeky cub perched atop the falls

    Katmai bears 2016 and cub

    katmai bears 2016

    Then something happened that we have never seen before. The distracted mother lost her footing and tumbled over the falls. Some four-hundred pounds of mama bear went splash into the Jacuzzi, missing big, bad male 747 by mere inches. Fortunately for the discombobulated mother, 747 was also startled and she able to exit the Jacuzzi without being attacked.

    Mama's in the drink! Mama's in the drink!

    But there above her stood her cub, all by itself and exposed on the lip of the falls. The recovering male still directly below, and you could almost see the cub’s little wheels turning as he thought, So… am I supposed to jump too? (He didn’t, much to our relief. We were able to breathe again when mother and cub were reunited with no more tumbles into the drink that day.)

    One of the big males showing off his claws One of the big males showing off his claws
    Face to face Face to face

    In 2015 we were walking on the trail from the lodge to the bridge when a male came past at a full run. We immediately moved as far back from that side of the trail as we could because you know that when a male comes through at that speed there is an even bigger male right behind him. Instead of continuing the chase, he stopped to make it was clear who was boss. This is the closest I’ve ever been to one of Katmai’s spectacular brown bears; eight feet away, and that is a look I won’t soon forget.

    Even though it would rain for 7 of the 10 days we spent this year at Katmai, the beauty of this place, the presence of bears, and the fascinating people we met during this great adventure made it yet another amazing year at our beloved bear camp. You can bet I’ll be back again, soaking up the scenery and spending time with the bears.

    Big (bear) hugs, Jenny

    Check back soon for links to new bear videos, and here are a couple more favorite pictures of serene Naknek Lake...

    Naknek Lake Alaska

    Naknek Lake Alaska

  • Katmai Bears 2016 – The Year of the Cubs

    Written by: Jenny

    This year it was all about sows and their cubs during our annual camping trip to Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve where we go to spend time among the brown bears. We are usually lucky to spot cubs on 3 or 4 occasions over the course of our 10-day visit. This time there were 1 to 4 family groups every day!

    Watching new mothers and their cubs is more fun than just about any activity I know. The most engrossing drama or heart-stopping thriller is nothing compared to the stories that play out mere yards away. With all this action, a few “stars” are bound to emerge.

    (Check out this You Tube video that proves brown bears really can climb trees:)
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/CXfCXGkJ_8c

    Our favorite from the 2015 Katmai bears season was a gorgeous long-legged blonde (it’s always the blondes, isn’t it?) with big furry ears, bear 128, known as Grazer. We were thrilled at Grazer's return, and to see she was a first-time mom with 3 spring cubs. There was the cute little runt, a black “middle-child” cub, and the successful over-achiever who was at least 3 times the size of the runt.

    Katmai bears, grazer and three cubs Grazer and family in a moment of repose.

    Hell Hath no Fury Like a Mama Bear

    Before the salmon started running in the river where the bears feed, Grazer decided to stake her claim to a good fishing spot. She chose one near ample trees where she could hide her cubs quickly and easily when threatened. The life of a new bear mom is not for the faint of heart. The males will attack and kill the cubs so they can mate with the females again. Life in bear country is not exactly an episode of The Brady Bunch, and I felt for all the weary and ferocious bear mamas defending their young.

    Katmai bears, grazer and cubs Somebody's coming...

    Once Grazer had chosen her fishing spot she proceeded to take on any male that came within a 50 to 75-yard radius. First she would chase her cubs up a sturdy tree, sometimes climbing up after them herself to ensure their safety. With her precious bear cubs safely hidden from harms way, she would then charge at the offending male, teeth bared and claws slashing. One day we watched her successfully attack and drive off 4 large males, including the alpha male 747.

    Unfortunately, she was becoming progressively more stressed, exhausted, and hungry. The fish still weren’t running, and she was ravenous with 3 hungry cubs to nurse.  But by the fifth day Grazer had secured her position of power, and when the fish finally arrived all the males were giving her a respectfully wide berth.

    (For a great video of one of Grazer's fights, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e69h5csPSo8)

    Katmai bears, bear fight Grazer takes on a big male...and kicks his furry butt.

    I caught an especially funny moment when Grazer’s middle child fell out of the tree he’d been hiding in. Mama hardly noticed the fall!

    Katmai bears, grazer and cubs When helicopter parenting fails… can’t take your eyes off the kids for a second!

    The cubs have definitely had an action-packed summer so far. This recent Washington Post article highlighted a video shot of the Grazer’s cubs tumbling over the waterfall as she rushed to pull them to safety. Ah, just another day in Katmai—never dull!

    Check back next week for more Katmai bears, adventures, and pictures...

    Happy trails, Jenny

    Click here to check out our bear inspired jewelry collection.

    Click here to learn more about bear watching in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

    Click here to watch the Katmai bear cam at Brooks Falls.

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