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!
I tied my boat up along a downed tree downstream.I was walking back to my boat when this bear came out of the forest in front of me & began walking downstream as well. It spied my boat & was curious. When it walked along the down tree to inspect my boat I yelled at her! Last thing I need are her claws puncturing the air tubes! She looked wide eyed at me for a second,turned & ran into the forest.
I got into my boat & began to drift downstream.She came back out looking rather perplexed…….”What did I do”?
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.
I came across three female bears tonight.Each one had a unique face. I liked the last one the best.She just seemed to express her personality more so.
I believe this is Piglet #1.She has the same markings & is shy.
I’m calling this bear “Winnie The Pooh” because the first thing she did was turn her back to me & pooh! Plus it’s a female & so was the original “Winnie”.
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!
When I first saw a Sow & cub I said to myself “thats Peggy & Piglet”! After all I did find them in their favourite bay. Once I got closer I had doubts.Last time I saw Peggy she had facial mange. This bear doesn’t have any.So I started wondering if it was another bear with a cub similar to Piglet?
After I got home I was able to inspect her face closer.I do believe this to be Peggy after all! Her face does show a blotchiness to it & Piglet has the same blonde hair around her mouth.Vancouver island bears have a unique feature.They have blonde hair around their mouth.
When I first saw this yearling I was hoping it was Piglet? Piglet has a thin white chest marking on her but I couldn’t see it on this bear.
It walked along a downed tree towards me & than it walked in front of a glacial boulder.That boulder has to weigh 10 tons if it’s a ounce! The glacier picked it up thousands of years ago & dropped it off here.Notice how well rounded it is.Thats due to the natural tumbling & grinding a glacier does.
Notice how this bear is just inside the shadows.I originally saw it from the other side.The well lit side,but realized the only way I was going to get a shot was to go around this island & shoot a silhouette from the reverse angle.
Lefty’s right eye was damaged during a fight with another bear.She seems to get along without it just fine.
A friend mentioned that this bear looked like “Bat Boy”.After checking previous shots I’d have to agree. This is Bat Boy!
It’s been hot (for our area at least) here for the last few days.When that happens the bears tend to stay inside the coolness of the forest.I only found one bear out tonight.It was a female.I recognized her & I think she recognized me as well. She has a skin problem around her right eye.
On another note.This boulder I find interesting! See how rounded the edges are.That only comes from being turned over & over many times.The only thing that could do something like that is a glacier.
When a glacier advances it’ll scoop up whatever is in front of it.Very much like when you shovel snow with a large shovel. The glacier will continue to advance for thousands of years! It will pick a boulder up & transport it hundreds of miles from it’s original spot.When the glacier retreats all of these boulders fall out.Thats what I believe this boulder is.They are called a “Glacial Erratic”.I’ve seen some erratics the size of a house!
This male (Willy) was following a young female.He wanted to mate with her but she wasn’t ready yet.He would try to nuzzle her all the while softly grunting.In the last shot it shows him laying down waiting for her.He actually had a 5 minute nap while Winnie grazed near by.
In the bottom picture the bear to the left is the male,Willy & of course the other is Winnie. Willy wanted to mate with her but she wasn’t ready.So Willy followed her everywhere.Sometimes he’d just sit down & once he laid down to sleep while she grazed close by. This scene reminded me of how humans act.The male stays seated outside the mall store waiting for his wife to finish shopping.
I found this bear on my way out of Gunner inlet.It’s a young bear.I thought it’s ears were bigger than normal & so was leaning towards calling him “Bat Boy”,but I’m not sure of the sex? It does have a white chest patch so I will be able to ID it in the future. I’ll let you know if it’s a “Bat Boy” or “Bat Girl”?
“Lefty” was attacked years ago by another bear.Her right eye was damaged.She had twins last year but appears to be by herself this year.
I found this female bear in a area I’ve never seen a bear in before. I also got the feeling that this bear hasn’t seen many people/boats before.It swung around & was very curious about me.As long as I don’t move the bears stay transfixed staring at me. I do have to slow the engine or correct my steering which means I do have to move.Movement tells them I’m an animal & that scares them away.
I was so happy to see my young furry friend again! She looks like she’s grown & is doing well! Because I didn’t see her mother Peggy anywhere I suspect Piglet denned by herself.Peggy must of given Piglet the boot last fall before going to sleep.I found Piglet on the very same beach I found her last year at this time.They tend to hand around areas they are familiar with when they are young.
UPDATE: Turns out this is not Piglet after all.I found both Peggy & Piglet together last night.So this female cub is new.
I found a new bear today! It has a very unique chest marking! A white patch in the shape of a “V”. So I’m calling this bear “Valiant”.
These shots are out of order to be honest.These are the first shots I took.When I spotted Valiant he was pretty far back from the waters edge.In order to get closer I had to very quietly beach my boat around the corner & as quietly as I could walk along the shore, peek around the corner. When I did I could see that he had heard me & so was very alert looking around!
He soon settled down to have a afternoon nap.
I found the strangest thing tonight! I found a parachute! I found it at the end of Gunner inlet & “Valiant” was right beside it! Maybe he parachuted in from parts unknown?
I use to parachute myself.When I spotted Valiant in this small bay at the back of Gunner inlet I also spotted some flotsam as well.I was curious what it was & so glassed it with my lens.The first thing that came to mind as to what it was ….was a parachute! I quickly dismissed that idea. I looked up how much a parachute costs these days.They are around $8000. So one would not go leaving their chute laying around or loose it “some how” over the water. It may be a pilots rig that accidentally fell out of a plane?Over the course of time both chutes would of been released & became hopelessly entangled!
Who knows…..maybe it’s the lost lost parachute of D.B.Cooper?
Update: (May 11th) – the chute may of come from this plane crash?
Update:(May 17th) – I found out through a friend that two guys (one guy was a parachutist & had his own chute) use to live at the mouth of Gunner inlet on float houses 15 years ago or so.They were growing some pot down at the far end of Gunner.One of the guys stole the whole crop,so the other guy threw the guys chute in the ocean in retaliation.
A few people have said that “Bugsy” is a huge bear! I know him to be a average bear & wondered why? After looking at the picture more closely I believe I know why! His body is slightly angled.We see his left side sticking out & assume it’s because of such a great girth but in reality it’s only because of being slightly angled.
I’m not familiar with this bear? It looked like a adult male. It was skittish around me.Most of them at the beginning of the season react that way.Once they get familiar with me,they won’t even bat a eye.
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!
She was even nice enough to pose for me! Such a nice girl!
On my way back from Tranquil,I came across this female bear.I know it’s female because the rear end is more rounded. I must admit that I have never seen a bear in this location ever! I was very surprised.Certain areas have more food than others & so are more frequented.She was eating the occasional barnacle. Slim pickens. Another good indication that the salmon run is done.
I think the salmon have left the building!
Peggy looks so beautiful in this shot! I couldn’t of gotten a better pose from her.She actually seemed to be very proud of her new born cub “Piglet”!
Piglet couldn’t of been more than a month old here.Peggy had Piglet late in the year.The females give birth in their winter den.
On the coast,a den is anyplace that is dry & quiet. Usually a large overturned tree.
They are born with serious hardware.
Piglet had just been feed but was still hungry.She was crying for more.
When she was first born,her nose was more pinkish.The reason why I called her “Piglet”.She looked like a little piggy with her pink nose.
“who’s that Mummy”?
When It was time to go,Peggy very gently reached down & picked Piglet up by the scruff.Piglet had been protesting loudly at not being feed fully but when Peggy picked her up,she shut up & looked more stunned.
Peggy walked slowly & carefully up into the forest with Piglet swinging like a large purse!
It was such a adventure & honour to watch Piglet growing up over the summer!
This is Piglet all grown up as a cub.Notice her distinct chest marking.A thin vertical white mark.
Piglet & Peggy will be going to sleep soon.Bears btw do not hibernate.They actually go into a state of sleep called “Torpor”.Basically the difference between hibernation & torpor is that torpor isn’t as deep a sleep.In torpor the heart rate & respiration is faster.Plus the animal is attentive to sounds around it.A bear can be woke up simply by walking near it’s den. You can walk up to a hibernating animal & not wake it!
They’ve found out from researchers (who put bio monitors on a bear before it went to sleep) that if a bear is disturbed,It takes 2 weeks to get back down to it’s original state of torpor.The researchers had to go swap the cards every month or so from the recorder.The recorder was located several hundred feet away from the den.The data was sent to the recorder wirelessly.They saw in the data that the heart rate increased when someone approached the recorder!
I won’t be seeing them anymore this year.
Sleep well Peggy & Piglet……see you in the Spring my friends & thank you!
With the weather closing in,I won’t be getting out any time soon! So I thought I’d revisit some cub shots I’ve taken over the Summer. It’s been amazing to watch them playing,searching,climbing & growing bigger! Each of them has a unique personality.
I feel very lucky & honoured to watch them growing up.They are more like human children than one would think.