In this part of Oregon, black bears are plentiful in the woods (estimates are in the 25,000 to 30,000 range), and those of us living on the edge of town know they come down looking for food this time of year. In fact, I have a BearSaver trash can and have tweeted the evidence of bear-sign before. Not to mention I’m regularly cleaning bear, erm, evidence, off the front lawn.

Then a few days before Christmas, we caught a glimpse of a momma and two cubs tearing through the front yard in the late morning. Which is really unusual, as they typically are only around at night.

Then this morning, I spotted them again, down at the creek at the bottom of our property. And they weren’t running away. I had time to grab the long lens and get a few shots through the window!

Black Bear in Ashland, OR — Momma on WatchBlack Bear in Ashland, OR — Momma on Watch @ January 2012 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 400mm ƒ/4 @ ISO 640, ƒ/4, 1/80

They were up and down the canyon (it’s a small canyon, my house at the top on one side and a creek at the bottom), but I was shooting through windows and trees. They started to come up our path right to the back patio (!!) but thought better of it and turned around. I caught this shot of them bounding across the creek. The 400mm lens was too long to catch all of them in the frame at once!

Black Bear in Ashland, OR — Cubs on the runBlack Bear in Ashland, OR — Cubs on the run @ January 2012 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 400mm ƒ/4 @ ISO 640, ƒ/4, 1/50

Alenka named them “Scrappy” and “Coco”. Some of you will, I’m sure, get the reference ;-) (Scrappy is the black, scruffy looking brunette in the front… Coco being the blonde in back).

They eventually headed up our side of the hill, which gave me a chance to change lenses. I spotted our neighbor in her yard, and dashed out to warn her so she didn’t walk right into them. Turned out she was heading out for a better look too, and by then they had climbed a big tree on the hill. There was a dog barking on the other side of the canyon, and I think seeing us didn’t help. We were able to stand our ground and I got some cool shots for several minutes before they started climbing down. Shooting through thickets of bare branches is never good, but the lighting was gorgeous and I managed to get a few shots I’m pleased with.

Black Bear in Ashland, OR — Three in a TreeBlack Bear in Ashland, OR — Three in a Tree @ January 2012 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 640, ƒ/3.5, 1/320

I have to admit we were quite close; probably closer than was smart to be. But, you know… had to get the photo :) Plus my neighbor was standing with me, and we discussed it and figured if they actually came our way, both of us yelling would divert them.

After a bit more of this I had a chance to change lenses again, during which time momma and Scrappy climbed down and headed back up the canyon, leaving poor Coco behind for my photographic enjoyment.

Black Bear in Ashland, OR — Solo CocoBlack Bear in Ashland, OR — Solo Coco @ January 2012 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS @ ISO 640, ƒ/4, 1/160

That’s the best shot of the bunch. I do wish I could have gotten something that clear of all three of them, but you know… bears don’t listen to direction very well.

For more backyard nature, be sure to check out the entry “Oh, Deer!” from back in July. It’s a jungle forest out there.