Bears will patrol the shallows of a river looking for exhausted salmon. This bear found one but the salmon appears to have more life in it still!
The salmon are beginning to stage in their natal streams! So this year I thought I’d try to do something different. Obviously I cannot hang around my favorite stream day after day, week after week.I’d like to…… but cannot.
So I have set up a Trail camera to catch the action. I placed it in a spot where the salmon are forced to expose themselves. They must move upstream to spawn! I picked this spot because they move from a deep pool to another pool above but have to swim over some washboard rapids exposing themselves.
Of course the bears are smart enough to know where the best spots are! The bears wander along the river banks each day searching and hoping that they are in the right spot when one of the salmon makes a break for it!
I too try to be at the right place at the right time but as I’ve said,I cannot be up there all the time. So I’ve set a trail camera up. I will collect the SD card after a month. Wish me luck! Its taken me years to figure this stuff out…….. or maybe I should say “think” I’ve got it figured out. This kind of stuff doesn’t come with a manual.
I was hiding in the forest when I shot these.You can see some limbs in the way. They knew something was up! They heard my mirror slap.When they have their heads turned like this it means they are watching behind them
Bears will often times put their head under the water to see If there are any dead salmon snagged? This guy came up empty mouthed.
A bear spied a eagle but what the bear doesn’t know is that the eagle spied a salmon!
I was very surprised to see so many bears all out wandering along the rivers edge looking for salmon! I think they know the run is coming to a end & are trying to get the last snack in before beddy bye!
When a salmon comes into a river system they are full of energy.They’ve come here to party like its 2018! They have this very strong primordial desire to mate! Once they do, their energy levels begin to drop fast.(kind of like human males) Basically they begin to die & they know it.
When they get weaker they cannot swim out in the middle of the fast moving river.They come into the shallows to get out of that strong current. It would be similar to you running a marathon & there is a strong head wind against you! Getting out of that wind is all your thinking of!
Once they move into the shallows they become easy prey for the bears! The bears patrol the banks of the river each day.One might go upstream in the morning & maybe come downstream in the afternoon.
They are looking for salmon like our friend here.If a bear comes along,it’ll invite Mr.Salmon to dinner.They then will go for a short walk into the forest.
One thing I learned a long time ago is never to drink the water during spawning season!
WHY?………The water has Tape worm larvae in it.Bears drink the fresh water & get tape worms.You can see one hanging out of its butt.
With the rain we got all week, Tranquil creek turned into Tranquil river! This bear swam across to the other side.I had been walking upstream with my canoe in this very spot last week. Not a chance today!
During spawning season there are many bears wandering around.I’m mindful of that fact.My head is constantly swivelling around like a radar dish ever watchful.
Having said that If a bear walks by me I do become focused on its activities. I was taking shots of one bear walking past & after it left I looked around behind me & found this pretty 3 year old female just staring at me with such a beautiful look! I swear she knew me & seemed almost glad to find me! She was not more than 15 feet behind me.She just stood there waiting for me to notice her waiting patiently. I walked down stream away from her & she walked downstream following me.I moved 4 times & she did as well.
Her patience was rewarded by finding a salmon in a set of washboard rapids! She walked off with her treat & before she disappeared into the forest I yelled out “bon appetite”.
Her patience was rewarding by finding a tasty salmon for dinner! She slowly walked off into the forest to enjoy her salmon dinner in private.Most of the time the bears do not finish their salmon. They eat the best parts & leave the rest.This salmon will now decompose & act as fertilizer for the forest.The trees surrounding a salmon bearing stream grow larger as a result!
All the nutrients the salmon gathers over its 4 years while out in the open ocean are eventually brought back to the forest.
The bears wander up & down the streams banks searching for salmon.I’m standing in the middle of the stream for hours watching these bears walk past me.The salmon can see any movement near the bank & will dart away.While canoeing upstream many of them hit the bottom of my canoe in the panic to get away.Because I stand still in the water many times they will swim between my legs.I always hate when they splash near me & draw the attention of every bruin.Last thing I want is for a Bear to come crashing towards me!
Catching a “fresh” salmon is very hard as they are full of energy & quick! After a few weeks……not so much.They grow weaker & so get out of the rivers current by going close to shore.Thats exactly where the bears grab them!
They splash about seemly teasing the bears most of the time.
Whenever a bear grabs a salmon its always very mindful of other bears seeing & wanting it’s prize. This bear was scared I was going to run over there & take its salmon!
Bears like to wade across the streams.Sometimes they will spook a salmon & that salmon will freak out & high tail it out of there……but sometimes in their rush they swim right up onto the rocks! Thats when the lucky bruin says “thank you very much”!
They basically act like a dog flushing Grouse out of the bush.
While I’m outstanding in the cold water for hours many bears will walk past me on both shores searching for dead salmon. They never bother me but are more concerned if I will attack them.
Most bears eat salmon that are already dead.A salmon will die & sink to the bottom.When it rains the creek turns into a river.The current increases & all those dead salmon resting on the bottom begin to move downstream.Most of them get flushed out into the estuary but many become snagged by trees that have fallen into the river.Thats what these bears are doing.They know trees act like a net & grab the salmon bouncing along the bottom near shore.
The salmon have arrived & are moving into the river system! They all look fresh & full of fight! Didn’t see any bruins cruising the shore line yet. Now that the dinner bell is ringing its just a matter of time until they start cruising!
The starting gun for this years salmon run has gone off! The rains have started.The salmon are on their way to their natal streams.Each will sniff out their natal stream.Each stream has many soluble minerals in it. Each stream has a unique mineral finger print.
As a parallel each key has a unique cut to differentiate it from another. The same with each stream.Each stream has unique trace minerals in it. This unique mineral marker was imprinted into the salmon when it was born in that particular stream. Each salmon is like a blood hound sniffing it’s way back to it’s natal stream. Think of it like a huge highway with millions of salmon all swimming together.When the salmon smells it’s stream It simply ramps off!
Once it finds it’s stream It’ll “stage”.All that means is it’ll stay out front of the stream breathing in that fresh water. The fresh water coming from the stream begins to change them.This triggers hormonal changes.The male salmon will grow large hooked jaws.They change like Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde. They change into Mr.Hyde! Once they begin to change they go upstream to check things out.They head to the salmon party!
They move upstream during high tide & hunker down in the deep pools during low tide.They know it’s dangerous to move from hole to hole during low tide.The bears are waiting to pick off the dumb ones.The ones who try to make a run between deeper holes during low tide are invited to dinner. Once they get above the tide line they are on their own.No more protection.They want lots of rain so the streams fill with lots of water.Lots of water means deeper waters. Which means protection from the bears grabbing them.
One of the problems bears have is seeing the salmon.So they like these pedestal like rocks to stand on.They can look down & see the salmon swimming.A rookie bear will jump in when he sees the salmon swimming about.A smart bear will wait for low tide when there is less water around.That way the salmon has fewer options to escape!
The male salmon begin to fight with each other.They will find a female & swim beside her.If another male comes too close,that male will attack! I once let a underwater camera go downstream to record the spawning salmon.A male didn’t like the looks of my camera & attacked it.
Once the female is ready she’ll dig a rut (red) in the gravel.She’ll lay her eggs & the male will release his milt from upstream.The eggs are than covered back up with the gravel.The eggs have a semi permeable membrane that allows oxygen to pass through.During the winter the fresh oxygen will keep them alive.This is when they are imprinted with that streams unique mineral signature!The eggs are vulnerable to many factors.Other fish coming into the stream for a snack,temperature,PH,DO (dissolved oxygen).
Streams that have been logged down to a streams edge will have lots of sediment being washed down the hillsides into that stream.That sediment settles on top of the eggs, cutting off the oxygen. Which in turn kills the eggs.
So……..say instead of 100,000 salmon heading out of that stream to that big highway out to the ocean,there may only be 10,000.So in 4 years time that returning population will be far smaller than normal due to that sediment. Thats why clear cutting should never happen near a salmon stream.
Btw,that 10,000 will be reduced even further by predators while they are out in the ocean for 4 years & remember that when they come back fully grown they have to get through that bruin gauntlet as well!
Life as a salmon is tough! Once they lay their eggs & release their milt,they die.They fall like snowflakes to the bottom.This is when bears reach under the water (like a racoon) & grab leftovers. When the first big rain happens all those dead salmon carcasses are swept downstream by the increased current.All the birds & crabs are waiting out front with smiles on!
I went paddling on New Years day.I had Tranquil all to myself!
I was pleasantly surprised to find one of my furry friends still out & about! A record for me personally! I’ve never seen a bear out so late.I had to stand in the river to get these shots which made me visible.You can see it sniffing the air trying to figure out what I was? Once It spotted me,It stopped walking towards me,retreated & went into the forest.I knew it was going to come out behind me so I backtracked myself,got into my canoe & paddled over to the other side of the river & waited.
Sure enough It came out right were I had parked the canoe. It crossed the river & found a dead salmon! I was shocked that any dead salmon were still around! The heavy rains flush them out to the estuary!
He’ll be going to bed very soon!
I went up into Tranquil today.I checked on the run.When I was going into the system I could see lots of white objects all over the bottom.Those white patches were salmon skin.The crabs had eaten all the flesh. As everyone knows,a salmon will die after spawning.After expiring the salmon fall to the bottom of the river.The bears grab what they can from the bank. When all the rains come,the river swells & all those dead salmon are flushed out of the river into the estuary.Where there are many animals (Gulls,eagles,Otters etc ) waiting. ………….not to mention the crabs! Crabs are attracted by scent.Anything that dies produces a scent cloud.Once they smell that scent cloud they scurry towards it.They eat everything they can…..leaving behind just the white skins.
All the Chum salmon are done.Just some Coho hanging around.The bears will wander up & down the river along the banks searching for any salmon that has recently died.The salmon can become snagged by a tree limb (strainers) or simply drift to shore.The bears know these hot spots & check them each day to see If anyone knew has dropped by?
Thats what this bear was doing.It was walking along the river bank checking for dead salmon.When it starts to get cold,that will be the final bed call for my furry friends. In the next few weeks most bears will be going beddy by.Each bear has already scouted out a nice remote,quiet den. Most bear dens are underneath large trees. Another reason why original growth is so important.Large trees that have fallen due to high winds will provide a excellent spot to stay warm & dry while it’s pouring all around!
I’ve seen a few of these dens. A dead giveaway is the ground.It’s all smoothened from the bears weight.I’ve also noticed something odd.All the stray bits & pieces of organic debris on the ground is in a swirl pattern.I think the bears get up & turn occasionally,but the thing is,they keep turning & turning in the same direction.Which over the course of time moves all these debris into a swirl pattern!
I went camping for 5 days up in Tranquil creek.The salmon are running & the bears are grinning! I’ve been keeping a eye on the run & it looks like it’ll be coming to a end in a few weeks.Than my furry fiends will go for their winter nap.
Each day I had up there was magical! I couldn’t believe all the beauty surrounding me in oh so many ways.From the eagles flying over head,to the bears cruising looking for a tasty treat to the sound of a lone owl calling out in the night just to say goodnight!
I walked upstream with hundreds of salmon swimming all around me.With many bears walking around me.Seeing,breathing & hearing all of life dancing around me is what it’s all about….
I was in the forest when I heard some flapping out front in the water! I went to investigate & found this immature eagle having a bath.Looking at the markings,I’d say this is a one year old?