This grizzly bear in the water below the viewing stands on a Knight Inlet BC river was taking a rest. It had caught and eaten several salmon in the first half-hour of our viewing time and decided to lie down on the job. After eating this salmon it moved off to the near by bush possibly to have a nap.
In bear identification 101 the black bear’s rump is higher than front shoulders and a grizzly bear’s rump is lower than shoulder hump. On a grizzly this hump is made of fat and muscle and helps the grizzlies to dig up roots and tear apart logs to find food. The angle of this photo and the pose of the bear make the hump very obvious.
The whale watching tour leaves the lodge between 7:30 and 8:00 to travel the fifty-minute boat ride to Johnstone Strait. Mid-morning we have a bathroom break in Telegraph Cove on BC’s Vancouver Island. The picnic lunch we carry is often eaten drifting on the ocean currents. This day for a change we tied to the bull kelp that grows along the shore. It was also the same day that a humpback whale decided to spend some time in the same kelp bed. It was less than 10 meters (yards) from the boat and spent about thirty minutes rolling and playing in the kelp. We were quite and the whale did not move off until another boat made noise running up Blackfish Sound about a kilometer (mile) away.
Late September on a grizzly bear tour from the lodge and we are in the first viewing platform overlooking the entrance to the spawning channel. A grizzly bear has just passed beneath the stand and is walking down the road toward the second or finger stand. We normally use the finger stand as it offers views of the natural river as well as the spawning channel entrance. Grizzlies frequently walk along the road when there are bears fishing in the channel entrance.
Wikipedia offers a good explanation of spyhopping: “When spyhopping, the whale rises and holds position partially out of the water, often exposing its entire rostrum and head, and is visually akin to a human treading water. Spyhopping is controlled and slow, and can last for minutes at a time if the whale is sufficiently inquisitive about whatever (or whomever) it is viewing.
Generally, the whale does not appear to swim to maintain its “elevated” position while spyhopping, instead relying on exceptional buoyancy control and positioning with pectoral fins. Typically the whale’s eyes will be slightly above or below the surface of the water, enabling it to see whatever is nearby on the surface.
Spyhopping often occurs during a “mugging” situation, where the focus of a whale’s attention is on a boat rather than on other nearby whales. Spyhopping among orcas may be to view prey species. For this a spyhop may be more useful than a breach, because the view is held steady for a longer period of time.”
Mussels and barnacles are a staple source of protein for black bears along the British Columbia coast. On grizzly bear tours, whale watching trips or the evening wildlife tour from the lodge black bears are often on the beach at low tide. This bear has found an ideal location that allows it to scrape the branches of this tree to eat the mussels and barnacles. Extreme low tides always bring more bears to the beach because the parts of the beach that are exposed at these tides offer a source of food rarely available.
Guiding on a whale watching tour is often more about watching for seagulls than for the blows of humpback whales. Once whales have been sighted the key is to find the gulls and move toward their feeding area. The gulls are attracted to herring balls. A bait ball, or herring ball, occurs when the herring swarm in a tightly packed formation rotating about a common centre. It is a last-ditch defensive measure adopted when predators such as diving ducks threaten them. The revolving ball moves to the surface and brings the gulls, the guides and in time the humpback whales which lunge from beneath for a mouthful of herring. The second photo showing the herring in the water is only obtained with great caution. It is necessary to make sure no whales are in the area before coming close enough for a view of the herring on the surface. It is not good to be this close if whales have been seen anywhere in the preceding half-hour.
All three cubs are now awake and the tide is starting to rise. The mother grizzly bear starts up the beach to the mouth of the river and the flat land estuary, which provides for protection in the taller grass. The river estuary also has easier access to the surrounding forest with its tall trees if the cubs need to escape a large male bear. Yes grizzly cubs can climb trees while the large males cannot.
Yesterday’s post showed grizzly cubs sleeping in the sunshine on a warm rock. Mother was always close by but it took us a few minutes of watching her to locate the cubs. It was a rare time for the mother to be able to obtain a meal without being on high alert for the active cubs. That has now come to an end as one cub is up and starting to graze…..more tomorrow