The grizzly bear tours from the lodge require a one and a quarter hour boat ride up Knight Inlet to the Glendale River estuary. In the spring and until August 24th viewing takes place along the shore and in the river estuary while after the 24th guests travel to the viewing stands further up the river. For both trips we tie up to a large float in the bay and transfer to an aluminum skiff to either go ashore for the ride up to the viewing stands or to view the grizzly bears along the shore or in the river. The skiff shown was made for the lodge to provide a safe and solid boat, which allows the guest to move about and take pictures. The spring tours will have a maximum of four guests in the boat leaving lots of room for camera equipment. The shallow draft of the skiff makes it ideal for the guides, enabling them to pull it easily up the river as the tide rises. Yes waders are a required part of a guide’s “uniform”.
In the spring grizzly bears are on the beaches to turnover rocks. This inter-tidal zone “food” is high in protein and is made up of crab, clams, barnacles, amphipods and other tiny invertebrates. The “beach food” is important because the numerous berries (huckle berries, salmon berries, black berries, thimble berries, salal berries etc.) do not become ripe until late spring and summer. This is a common pose for the grizzlies as they roll rocks, as rock roll easier down hill and were are in a boat on the down hill side of the bears. Also the bears accept our presence and any concern (fear) they have comes from up the beach where larger bears may approach out of the bush or forest.
As mentioned in an earlier posting grizzly bears are very playful—cubs treat their moms like a jungle gym. These twins did not want to leave their mother alone and this causes a problem. She had caught enough salmon and the cubs were content and wanted to play however she needs to continue fishing, as she requires many more salmon to fatten for hibernation. In this area with the large number of bears mothers cannot sent the cubs off on their own to rest or play they need to be constantly is her “protection area” for safety. So it becomes a fine balance between play for the cubs and food for mom.
This photo is of a large male grizzly bear sitting patiently waiting for a salmon to drift by to become lunch. The pool by the viewing stand is just below the salmon spawning channel and also the area that the dead salmon float too before entering the main river. It is a good place to sit and save energy as the salmon come to the bears and all that is required is a quick grab for a meal. The other side of the stands is the main river and a more active area of fishing.
Talking to the “locals” this was the worst side that any can remember and the first time a slide warranted a warning by the Canadian Coast Guard over the marine radio. But even in this story there is a sliver lining. The log salvagers in the area made years income in a month. Log salvagers are licensed and there were three boats collecting logs from the inlet and the beaches, which were later sold through log brokers for between fifty to several hundred dollars per log depending on the log.
The photo show guests have their picture taken beside a “deadhead” (a sunken or partially sunken log). The slide brought down many trees with their roots still wrapped around large rocks and these floated upright. At times the top of the deadhead would extend two meters (six feet) out of the water making them easy to see and avoid with the boat.
Travelling up Knight Inlet became like running through a maze. For the first two weeks the inlet was covered with slide debris and it was necessary to go quite slow and at times to push our way through the mess of small floating logs and branches. As the trees came off the mountainside it was like they were in a debarking machine used by sawmills. As you can see they were free of branches and bark. The large islands of twisted trees were less of a problem as they were easy to move around. As the photo shows trees up to a meter (three feet) thick were snapped like toothpicks. It is important to realize that in order for the logs in this pile to be so high out of the water (top logs close to three meters – nine feet) the other logs likely extended the same distance or more into the water. There were dozens of these floating rafts of logs in the inlet. More tomorrow…
This mother grizzly bear with second year cubs was located part way up the Glendale River estuary. The viewing of grizzly bears in the spring and early summer occurs along the shore of Knight Inlet and frequently in a river estuary. It is about an hour and fifteen minute boat ride from the lodge to a float where we transfer to a 3.5 meter (sixteen foot) flat bottom skiff which provided stable viewing for the bears along the shore. As the tide rises and because the skiff has a very shallow draft we are able to proceed up the river and follow the bears into the taller sedge grass.
Whale watching tours from Grizzly Bear Lodge were fortunate to view many humpback whales this summer. Most trips encounter ten or twelve different whales and some days up to twenty whales. Most days we were able to watch them lunge feed on the schools of herring. These two photos show a whale coming straight up with mouth open, pausing for a few seconds before closing it’s mouth which was full of herring. Notice the back of the boat in the first photo that was a guided fishing charter out of Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island.
The abundance of salmon in an area determines what part of the salmon is eaten by a grizzly bear. The more salmon the more likely that the grizzly bears will eat just the head, skin and row, which are the choice parts of the salmon for a bear. This is also true once the bears are fatter they tend to be more selective in what portion of the salmon they eat. So at the start of season and the end when the bears need to put on those last few pounds they eat the whole salmon.
Grizzly bear cubs usually stay with their mothers until they emerge from the den in their third spring. By then they should have learned skills essential for survival on their own. This is still, it is a dangerous time for young, inexperienced bears without the protection of their mom and siblings will often stay together for a while, some even denning together the first post-mom winter. Grizzly bears are very playful—cubs treat their moms like a jungle gym. They also play endlessly with each other and even older siblings will still play together as this photo shows. It is common to view bears playing and if the photos were taken out of context one would think they were actually fighting.
Not a good photo but a good story. If you are visiting Grizzly Bear Lodge for the extra day if is normally spent with Trapper Rick on the Kakweikan River which is a forty-five minute boat ride from the lodge then a twenty minute ride over logging roads and then a ten minute hike to the Trapper’s cabin. As a guide we ride in the back seat of the truck so this is a photo, through a windshield, of a large male grizzly bear walking down the road in front of the truck. We paced this grizzly for about three miles and it stayed to the middle of the road occasionally looking over it’s shoulder at the truck and even turned off the main road to take the same one we used to get to the river crossing to Rick’s cabin. We waited in the truck giving the bear time before we left for the cabin. So yes we do see grizzlies while visiting the Trapper.