Grizzly Bears of Knight Inlet, British Columbia
We’d been a bit worried that the whole adventure would be called-off as the weather forecast was not good. A gale was due to be blowing up to 35 knots up the Johnson Straight and Knights Inlet and if that happened the trip would have been cancelled and all would have been lost. So when my alarm went off at 5.45 we still weren’t sure we would be going.
By 6.15 we were at the Telegraph Cove dock to be met, as planned, by Derek Kyostia. To our delight we were told the trip was on – but it might be a bit bumpy! Of course, even when we had made the two hour boat trip to Glendale Cove in Knights Inlet there was still no guarantee that we would find our quarry.
We needn’t have worried, two hours later, within minutes of arriving at Glendale Cove, we were surrounded by Grizzly Bears…. big ones…. big ones with cubs…..
The grizzlys gather here each summer to gorge on the salmon as they attempt to run up the river. As the fish move into the Glendale River they have to navigate a shallow riffle section close to the mouth of the river. The bears are waiting. This year the weather has been hot and the water temperatures in the river were therefore high. This had caused the oxygen levels in the water to drop and salmon had been dying as the entered the creek. Not good for the salmon but heaven if you’re a bear – easy pickings. By the time we arrived (late August) most of the bears had been gorging themselves on salmon for weeks in order to gain weight for the long winter hibernation to come. As a result of the plentiful food – and the strict management arrangements governing viewing – the bears are very tolerant of the silly little human visitors poking their silly little cameras at them. The photo below shows you just how close you get. The grizzly mother with two cubs are on the edge of the island on the right, the humans are on the left in the boat (in case you weren’t sure).
The site is one of the best places in the world to view grizzlies. It’s very reliable. This season only three trips had had no sightings – if this happens you get a pass to come again until you see some. We needn’t have worried though; the day we were there we saw 16 different grizzlies – the season record. On the way back to Telegraph Cove in the boat some people saw four black bears (I missed them) and three humpback whales. All in all a great day – made the 5.45 am start well worth it!
This area around the North West Coast of Vancouver Island is not only one of the best places to see grizzlies but also Orca, Humpbacks and, I’m told, increasingly Sea Otters. Heaven. This is the third time I have been to Vancouver Island. I will be back again…. I hope.