Meet Naa Tla'a. Her name in Tlingit translates as Clan Mother. She is a 24 year old sow, who comes to Steep Creek in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area to eat spawning salmon.
She is a black bear, but she has brown coloration. In years past, she has been more cinnamon colored than black, but this year, she is darker.
She is the grandmother bear of the area, the mother of Nicki, a younger mother bear who has twin or triplet cubs every year. The U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game have stopped giving the bears at the Mendenhall Glacier human names, and now identify them as "C1 - 2011 (Cinnamon Bear 1, born in 2011) etc. Naa Tlaa is identified by the blue tag in her ear. I know it is not as scientific, but I like giving the bears names.
It was wonderful to see her last night when Charles and I went out to the Glacier on one of the three days of sunshine we have had this month. We were so lucky to be able to spend about 40 minutes observing her.
A young boy standing next to us told his dad that he wanted to climb over the fence to go and see her more closely. His dad told him that not only is she a wild animal and could be dangerous if disturbed, but that she deserves respect and a quiet place to eat and live. He gently remonstrated with his son for clapping his hands and whistling at her to get her attention. It was such a privilege to see a father passing on the Tlingit tradition of respect for nature and our animal neighbors.
We are so lucky to live in a place where we can be among the bears!
The Juneau Empire had a wonderful story last week about Naa Tla'a. Click here to read some of her story.