Black Bears at Alligator River NWR


In early December, a friend (Ernie) and I went to the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina (NC), where we planned to photograph wildlife at several refuges on the inland side of the NC northern coast. The refuges included MacKay Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Alligator River NWR, Mattamuskeet NWR, and Pocosin Lakes NWR. High on our list of wildlife to photograph were Black Bears, but we also expected to photograph Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, and various species of migratory ducks. This article is devoted to Black Bears, and subsequent articles will include the other wildlife. The above sunset image was taken from the Currituck – Knotts Island Ferry, as we crossed the Currituck Sound.

The first day at the OBX before sunrise, we drove to Alligator River NWR in search of Black Bears. Alligator River NWR contains over 154,000 acres and is one of the last significant habitats for Black Bear along the East Coast. Ernie had been there a few weeks earlier and had photographed several bears; therefore, our expectations were high. When we arrived at the refuge it was still dark, and we readied our cameras, lenses, and tripods, and then moved further up a dirt road separating open fields. As soon as we approached the first field, we spotted a large male bear. Since it was dark, I used a Nikon SB-900 Speedlight (flash) with a Better Beamer to extend and narrow the beam of light. The flash of light got the bear’s attention, turning directly toward us with its eyes glowing from the light (below). I also had to use a high ISO, and therefore, the image is grainy.


The area where the bears are more commonly seen is very large (hundreds of acres) and wide open, so while waiting for the sun to rise and provide better light, we drove further into the refuge. We saw several bears to include a very large male that strolled across the road in front of the truck. My only shot was through the windshield, and I took several until the bear disappeared into the woods. I made an animated GIF of the bear crossing the road. If you click on the below image, it will open up in your browser, and a sequence of four images will be presented.


After the bear crossed in front of the truck, we continued our search for more bears. Below are several of my favorites images.




Patience and persistence often pays off when photographing wildlife. I am not a patient person, as I am reminded regularly by my wife, but when outdoors in a natural setting, I relax and enjoy the natural world around me, and it often pays off enabling me to capture memorable images, like the images in this blog article, and in particular, the below two images.



I have not posted any blog articles since November, but have been busy pursuing my passion for nature photography at many locations to include Florida. I am in the process of preparing other articles to include migratory water fowl in North Carolina, Wood Ducks at Prairie Creek Preserve in Gainesville, various wildlife to include a Bobcat on Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, and most recently, a Snowy Owl at Little Talbot Island State Park in northern Florida.

The images in this article were photographed with either a Nikon D700 or D800 and Nikon lenses to include a 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and 600mm.

Comments on my blog and this article are appreciated and can be entered by clicking on “Comments” found below the Like this: section.  You can also read other’s comments there.

About Stephen L Tabone

Retired Executive Consultant and Nature Photographer
This entry was posted in National and State Parks, Nature, Wildlife and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Black Bears at Alligator River NWR

  1. Anonymous says:

    Incredible close-ups, and so out of the element you normally see a black bear. Well done!

  2. Mac says:

    These guys are looking at you and saying not enough meat. I would stick to birds and bees and don’t mess around with those big black bears.

  3. Jim Flowers says:

    Gotta Love those Bears!!!!!! You just want to reach out and give them a big hug!!!

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