A Love Story of Snaggletooth

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Back in July, I was with a group of photographers in Alaska photographing bears. 

Once we landed from the small plane, we encountered a male bear with a memorable face. 

He had scars on his face and body, noticeably one below his left eye.

And one of his teeth was hanging out, yikes, must be quite painful. The injury was probably due to fight with other bears. 

Locals called him “Snaggletooth”. 

In the world of bear photography, it's quite a rare treat to be able to photograph an adult male bear, because they don't seem to like humans much. 

If you approach them, they either turn around with their back facing you, or simply walk away.  

I remember many years ago, a mother bear and her two cubs tried to get close to us so that another male bear in the area wouldn't get too close to them. She just knew that the male bear didn't like to get close to humans.

How smart! 

From my experience, it's mostly overcast when I was in Alaska. Cloudy weather is fine for bear photography because the light is soft. But I've always wanted to get backlighting on them.

With almost 24 hours day light in Alaska in early summer, it's tricky to get dramatic light most of the day. Well, I finally got this chance with Snaggletooth. 

At first, I was a bit nervous photographing him as he didn't look too happy. 

And the other bears in the same area felt the same way. Wherever he walked to, the bears nearby would flee. 

We observed him for 5 days. He mostly spent his time lying on the grass, rolling, sitting up and looking up to the sky as if pondering about life.  

In the same area, there were at least another two adult male bears. 

One was young and handsome, with a perfectly triangle-shaped head. Another male was almost the same size as Snaggletooth if not bigger, but without any scars on the face.  

They all seemed to be pursuing one female bear in the area, a beautiful light-colored “blonde” female bear. This was a photo of her. 

Male bears usually would follow a female bear for days before the female accepted them. And a lot of time the female would just not mate with them. 

The other two male bears kept following the female bear but Snaggletooth never took any action. He seemed to have given up before even trying. 

On our last evening there, something unexpected happened. Snaggletooth was sleeping on the grass while the female bear could be seen a mile from him. 

Hopeless. I thought. He's never gonna get the girl if he didn't “up” his game. She's too far away.  

But all of a sudden, we saw the female raised her head and sniffed, and started to walk towards our direction where Snaggletooth was. Just for a few steps and she stopped and got back to grazing. 

Oh my god. I couldn't believe my eyes. So did Snaggletooth.

Never had she walked his way, even though it's just a few steps.

Was it just a delusion? Maybe she was not interested after all.

He got up, looking at the lady's direction, and he turned his head and looked at us, as if asking us for help. 

No one can help you my friend.

Would she still walk this way?

Should Snaggletooth walk over to her? 

He couldn't make up his mind, just kept looking around, and looked at us repeatedly.

“Go! Go for her! What are you waiting for!” I screamed in my head. 

After a bit of hesitation, this was what happened. Enjoy this video!

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