It’s named Sawyer Lake Road but it ought to be called Black Bear Blvd, USA. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is virtually unknown, but in my opinion it is best place in the world to watch black bears. This unassuming gravel lane, labeled “wildlife drive” passes by protected corn and soybean fields and is absolutely crawling with bears. We see at least one black bear every single time we enter the reserve and more often than not we see over a dozen. It is spectacular.
Once, from a single vantage point, we saw ten bears including two different mothers with three small cubs each. The mother in the above photo was accompanied by a single cub which ran down the road in front of us with reckless abandon and then dove into the bushes. When his mother caught up with him, he cautiously poked his head back out to examine us. If you look closely you will see the blue stains on their lips from a recent meal of berries.
The Alligator River NWR is accessed from Hwy 64 near the Outer Banks on the coast of North Carolina.
Brindley is an American conservation biologist, wildlife photographer, filmmaker, writer, and illustrator living in Asheville, NC. He studied black-footed cats in Namibia for his master’s research, has traveled to all seven continents, and loves native plant gardening. See more of his work at Travel for Wildlife, Truly Wild, Our Wild Yard, & Naturalist Studio.