Wildlife Report 2016 In Review

In 2016 we enjoyed another great season with excellent Grizzly Bear and whale sightings in both Knight Inlet and Johnstone Strait.

Bear viewing was great right from the start of our season in late May until the end in mid October.  In the spring we were able to view the bears feeding on sedge grass in the estuary and various marine creatures such as shore crab, mussels and barnacles.  “Bella” is a long time resident female grizzly bear in the Glendale Cove area of Knight Inlet.  Last year we saw several male bears showing interest and low and behold this spring she emerged with three young cubs of the year.  Lenore was also out with her yearling cub and many other bears greeted us on the shores and lower river this spring.  The salmon were very early this year with pink salmon entering the river by mid July.  Some of our July guests were lucky to view bears feeding on salmon ahead of schedule.  We began viewing the bears from the viewing stands on August 25 and there were an incredible number of bears feeding on the pink salmon.  The viewing platforms remained strong right through the season.  We had more rain this season then we have had in a few years.  For the salmon this is a good thing as the river was in great shape for the spawning fish which should make for good salmon returns in the future.

On the Kakweiken River trip we had some great Grizzly Bear viewing, particularly from late July through August.  The salmon were early here as well and so were the bears.  Pink numbers were so-so, but there was a huge return of Chum Salmon which are much bigger.  Emily was spotted often with her new cub as well as Burtrum, Andy, Cathy, Roy and a few others.  There was some excellent black bear viewing on the way to the river when the tide was out and frequent humpback whale sightings too.

It was also a great year for marine mammals in both Knight Inlet and Johnstone Strait. The resident (fish eating) Orca showed up in early July and were around until early October feasting on salmon.  The transient (mammal feeding orca) were around quite a bit this year and we were lucky to see them hunting both harbour seals and white sided dolphins on several occasions . The Humpback Whales were amazing once again and were very abundant throughout the entire season.  As usual there were large numbers of humpbacks in Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound.  Last year saw a huge increase of humpbacks in Knight Inlet and this year there were even more.  One of the nice things this season was to see a lot of whales returning to the Inlet with new calves.  These young whales will likely return to these same waters year after year.  On several occasions we hade Humpbacks right in front of the lodge.   In addition White Sided Dolphins, Stellar Sea Lions and Porpoise were common sightings. For the avid birders there was plenty to view as well. Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Marbled Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Storm Petrels, Surf Scoters, and Osprey to name a few.

Our guides and cook (Glen, Cam and Madeline) will all be back again in 2017.   After many years of service George will be retiring to spend time with his grandkids.  We thank him for his many years of guiding and memorable experiences.  Joe will also be returning, helping out behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs smoothly.  We look forward to another great season and hopefully we will see many of you in the coming season. Angus.

Grizzly bears looking for dry land

Grizzly Bear

The same grizzlies from the December 28th post have left the water and are heading for higher ground. You can tell that this is a mid August grizzly by the lack of “belly”.  By the early October and more than a month of eating salmon her legs will appear much shorter.  Grizzlies can increase their body weight by one third to one half before they den up for the winter.

 

 

Killer Whales – aka Orca

Killer whales

The orcas in our whale watching area arrive in late June and stay through mid-October. The most common orca / killer whales in the area are the residents. Residents or fish eating orca live in large family groups called pods, with multiple pods making up a population or community. The pods consist of multiple related matrilines, with each matriline often containing 3 or more generations. Each pod is led by the head female or matriach, as orca are a female dominated species. The matriarch tends to be the oldest female in the extended family. Her experience and knowledge guides the pod, and the matriach teaches younger whales about everything from parenting skills, feeding tactics, and navigation through the vast territories that they cover. Marc & Solange and family from France provided the photo and I know enjoyed their time with the orca.

 

 

Grizzlies Cool off

 

Grizzly and cub

All grizzly bear trips from the lodge prior to August 25th view bears along the shore of Knight Inlet and in the Glendale River estuary. Mother grizzlies start to bring their cubs to these areas in late May and stay for the salmon that arrive in late August. Grizzly cubs are naturally playful and if there is more than one the mother gets some rest as they play together but in this case it is all about mom. If there is not much shore remaining then lets play in the water.  Can you think of a better way to cool off in August? Thanks again to Marc & Solange from France for the photo.

Black Bear Swimming

Black Bear Swimming

 

On the first evening in the lodge guest go for a tour to look for black bear. This wildlife trip lasts a little over an hour and we normally see eagles, seals and black bear. However all tours from the lodge are by water and therefore we look for black bears. This was one of our lucky days.  I remember, coming back from whale watching we had stopped for a few minutes to look at a fish farm and the other boat got about five minutes ahead of us.  They must have just passed through this narrow channel when we came upon large male black bear swimming between islands. This was a fat bear because it was swimming high in the water in the early spring only their head is above water. Thanks to Marc & Solange from France for the photo.

Grizzlies Share Bounty

Grizzly Claws

Grizzly bears are omnivores, and their diet can vary widely. They may eat seeds, berries, roots, grasses, fungi, deer, elk, fish, dead animals and insects. In the late summer and early fall, grizzlies enter hyperphagia, a period of 2-4 months when they intensify their calorie intake to put on weight for winter denning. During this time period they can gain more than three pounds a day! Because of their diet grizzly bears have long claws between 3 and 5 inches, which are used for digging, picking fruits, catching prey and this case for holding salmon for their cub. Thanks to Lindy Taylor for another great picture.

 

Grizzly Cub Waiting

Grizzly cub Waiting Dry

Not all grizzly bears enjoy the water especially the first year cubs. In the spring along the shore of Knight Inlet the mother grizzlies often have a hard time coaxing the cubs into the water. At times we have seen them swim away form the cubs forcing them into the water. This cub is about nine months old and still prefers to stay dry while waiting for mother to provide food. Tomorrow’s post shows that food.

Grizzly Bear Enjoying a Salmon

Grizzly with Salmon

Great photo from Lindy Taylor of a Grizzly Bear having just caught a salmon and looking for a safe place to eat. The abundance of salmon in the area reduces the fighting between grizzlies but it pays to be cautious. Most bears just move to the bank of the river to eat however some use one of the many rocks located in the river. It is estimated that there are between 45 and 50 grizzlies that come to the Glendale River to take advantage of the salmon that spawn in late August through October.

 

Grizzly Bears Fatten for Hibernation

Two Grizzly Eating

“Grizzly bears feeding on Salmon. Photo taken from the viewing platform.”
Lynn is correct that the grizzly bears seems to have the catching and eating part down pretty good.  Some grizzly become selective in what part of the salmon they will eat.  Some prefer only the eggs, others the brain or skin and others “everything”.  The parts they tend to eat often are determined by how close they are to hibernation.

 

Humpback Whale for Lunch

Visiting Humpback Whale

 

“This photo was taken as we sat in the boat with George having lunch in the Inside Passage.
I can only describe this as the most perfect setting I have ever had lunch in. Beautiful perfectly calm sea, stunning scenery and total silence, but for the sound of the Humpbacks surfacing & blowing SO close to the boat.
Yet more Humpbacks near the boat!!”

Lynn is right but the key to “great pictures” is patience.  On our whale watching day we often sit and have lunch in the same areas that the humpback whales are feeding.  By being still in one area (motors turned off) we pose no threat or danger and end up with some incredible memories.