A Grizzly on the move

Blondie's bear stare - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After flying into the Khutzeymateen Provincial Park by float plane in the early afternoon, we moved all of our gear onto the Sun Chaser which was our base of operations for the four days spent in the inlet.  The captain, Dan Wakeman, sailed us east towards the end of the inlet for a couple of miles and then weighed anchor in a beautiful little cove.  We set up for shooting and hopped into Dan’s inflatable zodiac boat to look for bears.  Earlier we had passed a river and watched a dark coloured Grizzly slip into the shadows of the rainforest.  Now on a more mobile vessel, with shallow draft and a strong outboard, we headed back and went upriver about one hundred metres to see if the bear had lingered in the area.  It did not reappear and we soon headed down to the estuary and the main river flowing out of the mountains there.  We waited and watched but found no bears on that first visit to the head of the valley.  I didn’t mind, the scenery was beautiful and I enjoyed building a familiarity with the land.  Dan has spent the non-winter months of each of the last 35 years in the Khutzeymateen and it was a great to soak up some of the knowledge he freely shared as we trolled around and watched for wildlife.  We headed back to the Sun Chaser and spotted a female Grizzly who was picking dead salmon out of the sedge grass.  They get caught in there during the high tide when the meadows are covered and having spawned do not have the energy to untangle themselves.

Finishing off dinner - 2013 © Christopher Martin
With the Grizzly finishing off a fish, Dan introduced her as Blondie.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, she had been blonde as a cub and a few long tufts of hair behind her ears had stayed with her into adulthood.  She hunted in the grass for a bit longer and then went fishing in the river.  She splashed around a bit but pretty quickly headed to the grassy field on the far side and resumed looking for salmon there.

River crossing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

She paused frequently to smell the air.  Lifting her nose up and looking around it seemed likely there was another bear in that area, perhaps the dark bear seen earlier.  She was wary and Dan was not surprised when she pointed east and left the grass for the slippery rocks exposed during low tide.  She was heading for the estuary where the majority of the salmon run and the hunting can be very productive for the bears.

An easier path to the estuary - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With the full moon pushing and pulling water down the long Khutzeymateen Inlet, there was a difference of six metres between high tide and low tide.  When the water was up, it came right to bottom branches of the trees on the edge of the rainforest.  When it is low, many of the bears use the easier path along the exposed band of lichen and kelp covered rock to cover ground.

Bear claws - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With rain now moving from a drizzle to a steady downpour, we settled into a rhythm with Blondie paralleling her as she walked and swam along the coastline.  We moved with her for the better part of an hour.  She disappeared into the forest in a couple of impassable spots and then re-emerged again.  Twice she slipped into the water and paddled along that route for a while before making landfall and carrying on.

You should be swimming too - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This was an incredible opportunity to watch a Grizzly bear move through her environment at her pace, undisturbed by us due to Dan’s understanding of this population and this specific animal.  We met up with Blondie again a couple of days later and I will share that story in another post.

Along the forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Along the shoreline - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Bear hurdles - 2013 © Christopher Martin

At the next meadow of sedge grass she pawed at the ground in a couple of places, sniffed at the air a couple of times and then walked into the trees to a trail that Dan has seen which leads to the estuary still a mile further down the inlet.  We parted company and returned to the Sun Chaser for our own dinner.

14 responses

  1. Impressive Piece

    July 8, 2014 at 10:08 pm

  2. Fantastic short article, I liked the communication device using eyes
    section

    June 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm

  3. Pingback: Waiting for the loons… | Christopher Martin Photography

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  7. The details in the story add so much to already wonderful photos.

    August 27, 2013 at 11:56 pm

  8. Amazing images!

    August 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm

  9. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography)

    Fantastic photos. I like the angle you have shot from too – makes the viewer feel as though they are right there with the animal.

    August 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm

  10. Excellent shots of this amazing being!! 🙂

    August 27, 2013 at 3:54 pm

  11. Amazing!

    August 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm

  12. He has a look in his eyes that probably means ” I am not in the mood for……” .. .Thihi… I love your photographs – they are so fantastic!!

    August 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    • Thank you Mariane. As Dan told us, it may not look like they are watching you but when you look at the photographs, you will see their eyes on you here and there. She was undisturbed by us but definitely not unaware of us.

      August 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

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