The tours from Grizzly Bear Lodge start in May and run through the start of October and this passage of time allows the guides an opportunity to watch the bears as they change over time. The cubs appear on the beach in late May looking like the posting on April 8th and progress to the larger cubs in the April 10th posting until by the end of their second summer they are like today’s posting. The abundance of salmon in the river and good mothers produce a high survival rate amongst the cubs of Knight Inlet’s Glendale River.
Although the great blue heron is common in the coastal water of British Columbia it does not mean it does not make a good photo opportunity. Most guest somewhere in their hundreds or thousands of photos taken while on tour from the lodge will have at least one photo of a heron. In this case the watercolour is as important as the heron.
Grizzly bears will patiently stand in the river and wait for salmon to swim up stream to the spawning channel. The viewing stands used by the lodge overlook both the natural river and the man made channel that leads to the entrance of the spawning area. The bears tend to grab the salmon with their mouths or to pin them to the bottom with a paw and then grab either way it requires waiting for the right moment to make a move. And from the look of this bear allot of concentration is required as they do not spent time checking out the click of cameras and only look up if there is a loud noise.
The sign of a hungry grizzly bear is the salmon it eats. Bears will get selective in their eating habits as they bulk up and consecrate on female salmon because of either high fat row (eggs). The salmon that return to the Glendale River which is the river Grizzly Bear Lodge use for its viewing in the fall are mostly pink salmon or humpback salmon. The males develop a pronounced humped back thus they are also known as “humpies”. The salmon in the mouth of this grizzly is a male so it has not reached the selective feeding stage. The other reason could be that it is the end of the season and this bear just wants that bit of extra bulk and does not have time to be selective.
Great photo of a bald eagle coming into land on a salmon carcass on the Glendale River. The eagles leave other parts of the BC coast to congregate at river mouths in the fall when the spawning salmon return. The eagles arrive shortly after the grizzly bears and for the same reason, free and easy food. Grizzly Bear Lodge’s spring and fall tours spend time on one Knight Inlets rivers which has the sedge grass for grizzly grazing in the spring and the salmon in the manmade spawning channel in the fall.
These two juvenile sibling grizzly bears are waiting for a chance to move out into the river to fish for salmon. Being young they need to time their fishing to avoid the older males and the mothers with cubs. The area Grizzly Bear Lodge use on Knight Inlet for its tours has more than forty bears but there is such an abundance of food little fighting occurs and it is more about a bear timing its approach to the river. From the size of these bears bellies they seem to be successful and should have no trouble reaching a weight which will carry them through hibernation.
In the spring an important part of a grizzly bear’s diet is high protein sedge grass. This grass grows in the estuary of the Glendale River that is flooded with salt water at high tide. After the hour or so boat ride from Grizzly Bear Lodge to the river estuary we change boats for a large skiff which allows us to travel up the rive through the acres of sedge grass and obtain some close up photo of the bears grazing. This grizzly is letting us know that we may be with in its comfort zone and it is time to drift down river and give it room. Grizzly bears eat the grass in spring and early summer but once it goes to seed they move on to other food sources like salmon.
Pacific white sided dolphins travel in groups that are between 50 to 200 but on occasion will reach numbers of up to 2,000. These dolphins can travel quickly reaching speeds of up to 45 kph (30 mph). They are acrobatic with airborne flips and leaps can reach extreme heights. Like all dolphins they like to ride the bow wave of a boat and stick their nose into the prop wash. The best way to obtain a good photo is to spend twenty of thirty minutes in their presence and constantly take pictures and to hope there are some goods ones when you do your editing in the evening back at the lodge. All our day trips whether to the grizzly bears, whale watching or Trapper Rick’s often encounter pods of white sided dolphins.
This past summer part of the early run of salmon into the spawning channel died because fresh cool water from the lake feeding the channel was not released soon enough. If the water in the spawning beds becomes too warm it loses oxygen and salmon suffocate. This photo shows a late August grizzly bear; late August because it does not have the fat belly it will have later in the season when one normally sees this number of dead uneaten salmon. The positive of the salmon kill is that many more bears came early to feed in the area of the spawning channel. Unfortunately the control of water to the spawning beds is not under the control of those most often in the area and it takes time for other to respond.
The May grizzly cub shown in the April 8th posting shows by comparison the growth that takes place in a little over three months. Even without another grizzly in the photos the size difference is amazing. This growth is because grizzly bear milk contains up to 33 percent fat, more than that in heavy whipping cream. While whole milk just as it came from the cow contains about 3 1/2 percent milk fat. During this time the cubs alternate between nursing, grazing on sedge grass, a variety of berries and obtaining protein from under the rocks turned over on the beach.
Male pink salmon develop a large hump on their back during spawning, hence the nickname humpback (humpie) salmon. They are the smallest of the fall spawning Pacific salmon. Pinks have a very regular life history, living for two years before returning to spawn the next generation. Pink fry do not rear in freshwater. Immediately after emerging they move downstream to the estuary and rear there for several months before heading out to the open ocean. Because of this, pink fry have no spots, which provide camouflage in streams, but are bright chrome for open water.
The only interest the grizzly has in the life cycle of the pink salmon is their sex. At certain times in their feed grizzly will drop a male humpie to catch a female which contain the high fat content roe (eggs). During this peak of the run when grizzlies have access to an abundance of salmon at that time they will eat only the parts highest in calories – the eggs, skin and brains.