Not an Ursus arctos sighting, but a Bears Head nonetheless

Close-up image of Bears Head mushroom.
Bears Head mushroom (Hericium abietis): fungus or frozen waterfall?

My husband is a bit obsessed with spotting a brown bear in the wild and has been a tad disappointed that our last few trips to Alaska have yielded only viewings of bears in Sitka’s bear sanctuary. While I love knowing that places exist where bears can still be bears, I’d rather see no bears than a “bad bear” (about which subject there seem to be endless stories and perhaps a few tall tales).

All of which is to say that I was OK with seeing only a Bears Head mushroom (Hericium abietis). We spotted this beauty on a short hike through a coastal forest populated mainly by hemlocks and Sitka spruce. (Full disclosure: We did see bear sign near the trail and have heard stories about bear encounters along a nearby trail. Hey, it’s Baranof Island, which is famous for its high concentrations of coastal brown bears.)

Unfortunately, I was so excited about the mushroom itself that I didn’t photograph the substrate, but this species prefers conifer logs, unlike other hericiums such as the Lions Mane (H. erinaceus) that occur on hardwoods.

According to David Arora, this mushroom fruits on the same log year after year, so once you’ve found a spot, remember it!

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