Ever wonder how a grizzly bear scratches itself? I would imagine carefully given that its long 3 1/2” fore claws can kill with one powerful swipe.
In reality, most bear itches are resolved through rubbing up against an object. Grizzly bears are an itchy lot so it’s not unusual to see them scratching up against trees, bushes, boulders, road signs and even cabins. I’ve read that they even purposefully walk over brush to give their bellies a good scratching too.
I was fortunate to witness a grizzly bear in the midst of a crazed itch frenzy while traveling through the Sable Pass corridor in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. This self-given back rub against a small spruce tree must have been ecstasy for the bear as it continued for several minutes.
I knew while photographing the bear this was a good example of where video would be an effective story telling tool. For lack of a video camera, my next best solution was to create a time-lapse sequence of the bear’s antics. A time-lapse video made up of still images however was going to prove difficult because I was hand-holding the 600 mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter and was impossible to keep the lens in the exact locked-down position that you can do with a tripod. My solution — once back to the office, I used the auto-align feature of Adobe Photoshop to align the images in the sequence to be in the same position relative to each other. This allows the background to stay reasonably constant showing only the movement of the bear.
While the resulting video above is a bit corny and unpolished, it does capture just how good that back scratching session felt. To see the sequence longer, the video repeats the sequence twice. Click the replay button should you get the itch to see it again.
ABOVE: Time-lapse of a grizzly bear scratching itself against a small spruce tree as seen from the park road in the Sable Pass area of Denali National Park in Alaska.
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