The advantages of being a guide for Grizzly Bear Lodge are many; good food, guest on holidays enjoying themselves, the common interest in wildlife, great conversations around the dinner table and the list goes on… But the one shown by this photo is that if you take enough pictures during the season you will capture some unique images.
Bald eagles can be viewed from the front deck of the lodge on Minstrel Island as they fly from the nest behind the lodge to their fishing areas. On all the day trips for the whale watching safari, grizzly bear tours and wild river trips eagles are plentiful. The hardest part for a good bald eagle picture is to have the eagle so it is not “sky lined”. They need a dark background to set off their white head as shown in this photo. Also to note is the spread wings as it enjoys the sun while drying after the summer’s morning fog.
In the May 27th posting I mentioned that grizzly bears would fish beside the stand. The deck of the viewing platform is just over three meters (ten feet) above the ground and this bear was down the bank about two meters (six feet) and out from the bank about four meters (12 feet). I did the math allowing for the fact that the stand is not at the edge of the bank and the bear is approximately eight meters (25 feet) from the where the guest stand to watch the bears. To tell the truth none of the guests take time to comment on the closeness of the bears when their photos allow them to count the number of claws and their size.
Pacific white sided dolphins are frequently seen in the area of the lodge; whether on a grizzly bear tour, whale watching safari or the extra day trip to Trapper Rick’s wilderness river. The pods range in size from several hundred to over one thousand individuals. They are playful and like to ride the bow wave of our boats and will cross beneath the bow as if they are trying to see how close they can come without being fit. The prop wash is also popular and they will come within two meters (six feet) of the back of the boat. The unusual aspect of this picture is that there is only one dolphin.
A picture from the grizzly bear viewing stands used by Grizzly Bear Lodge. These stands are located on the Glendale River that empties into Knight Inlet BC about 40 km (26miles) from our lodge. Is this bear dead? No just taking advantage of the cool sand in the shade along the river. Shows how concerned and fearful the grizzlies are of the activity in and around the viewing platform. The bears have walked beneath the stands, will fish for salmon in the pool beside the viewing platform and even take a nap in the close by shade.
The first day / evening in the lodge involves an hour plus wildlife tour. This may occur before or after dinner depending on the height of the tide as it is hard to find a black bear on the beach if there is no beach. It is a local tour that familiarizes guests with the boats, the guides and the area around the lodge. The black bear that frequent the shore are less than half the size of the grizzlies mainly because they do not have access to the salmon rivers, which are controlled by the grizzlies. The best way to judge if the black bear is a big bear is the size of its ears in relation to the head. Small Bears: Will have a small, narrow head, almost dog like. Their ears will appear to be much larger and defined. Almost like “Mickey Mouse” is a common description. Big Bears: Will have a very large, blocky looking head. Their ears will look small, and almost off to the side of their skull a little.
A pleasant morning with the orca on the lodge’s whale watching safari to Johnstone Strait. This area along the shore of Vancouver Island is the summer home to the Northern Resident killer whales. They follow the salmon into the area arriving, most years, in early June and staying until mid-October. The northern residents contain approximately 250 orca in 16 pods. It is a quite area for viewing the orca in that on most mornings there are only five or six boats in the area watching the killer whales so they tend to behave in a natural way. They are not herded about by twenty or thirty boats, as are the Southern Residents near Victoria BC.
A mother grizzly and her two cubs visit the viewing stands used by the lodge after August 24th. The grizzly bears come to the area in the fall because of the abundance of spawning salmon in the river. This abundance allows the bears to feed and gain sufficient weight (140 to 180 kg, 300 to 400 lbs) to last through hibernation. The spring viewing occurs in the river estuary of Knight Inlet’s Glendale Cove where the bears feed on the sedge grass and protein found along the shore. This mother and two-year-old cubs spent the summer along the shore and have recently moved up the river to bulk up for the winter.
Over the past five years humpback whales have become more common in he area Grizzly Bear Lodge visits on whale watching days. The area close to Johnstone Straits between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia has become the summer home of more than twenty-five whales. The area has an abundant supply of herring and the whales come to feed and stay within our viewing area for a few days before moving in and out of nearby inlets. The whales start appearing in late May and there are whales all summer some days on six or eight but most days more than a dozen whales are lunge feeding and lobtailing in our viewing area.
The ending well is who has the right to fish in a certain part of the river and once that was determined food became the main concern. From first seeing the grizzly bear cubs on the beach in the spring to watching them grow over the years the dominance fight is a common theme. And the common source of the fighting is who gets the first salmon from the mother to who has fishing right on the river.
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.