Out in Johnstone Strait it is common to get what are called “herring balls.” Basically these are schools of small baitfish that have been pushed to the surface by fish and diving birds such as aucklets and murrelets. The fish appear to boil on the surface and are easy prey for gulls and bald eagles.
Your adventure actually begins even before you arrive at the lodge. All of our guests fly in via floatplane from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. It is a scenic 40 minute flight over countless islands and channels that dot the southern section of the Great Bear Rainforest. The planes land on the water and park at the lodge’s dock. No long lines at customs to deal with here!
This is our typical area for conducting our spring Grizzly Bear Watching. River estuaries are rich feeding areas from many animals. The grass that you see her is Lyngbys sedge. In the spring it is particularly lush and is a major component of the bear’s diet providing much needed protein.
The Grizzly Bears aren’t the only ones who enjoy the abundant salmon run. Birds such as eagles, Great Blue Herons, Gulls, Kingfishers and Mergansers are often seen in the river areas. What isn’t eaten by the animals is flushed into the estuary, providing food for other marine creatures such as crabs, sculpins, cod and Halibut. Finally the rotten fish is distributed into the forest by Bears and other animals providing natural fertilization to the forest floor. These wild salmon truly are the backbone of our coastal ecosystem.
Our spring grizzly bear viewing is done by boat. One of the highlights of the early viewing is getting to see the young cubs when they are still very small. The cubs are born in the den in the winter and usually weigh only about one pound. They rapidly gain weigh through their mothers rich milk and eventually by feeding effectively on their own. This is Grizzly Bear Lenore and her cub of the year. This particular cub should be on her own next spring.
In the spring time before the berries begin to ripen and the salmon start to trickle in the bears feed on sedge grass and the available seafood at low tide. The intertidal areas of our rocky coastal beaches are rich in life. “Rock Rolling” is a favourite activity of both coastal Black and Grizzly Bears. Under these rocks there are often shore crab hiding which are a favourite of the bears.
After August 25 we view the grizzly bears in Knight Inlet from elevated viewing platforms. This is usually an extremely productive spot and because of the platforms guests are often able to get reasonably close to the bears. On a 4 night trip we also explore another river system by truck and on foot. We stick together as a group and with a little work and strategy are often able to find these familiar Grizzlies feeding along the river. Platforms are great for viewing bears, but nothing compares with finding a bear on foot in a safe environment and viewing him at “his level”. The first picture shows a bear on the extra day trip (taken by Felix Rome) and the second is a bear underneath the Knight Inlet viewing platform.
The coastal grizzly bears rely on salmon to put on the pounds required for hibernation. In the height on salmon season a adult Grizzly Bear can consume over 20,000 calories per day. Early in the season the bears are not particular and will eat whatever they can catch or steal. As the season progresses, however some of the better fed bears will become particular and selectively eat the best bits. The roe (salmon eggs) are the most nutrient rich portion of the fish. This bear is extracting the eggs and leaving the rest of the fish for hungrier bears or birds to finish up at a later time.