Saturday, September 5, 2009

Salmon have Returned

We have waited all season with bated breath for the annual run of Pink Salmon to arrive around the end of July 2009. Very few had arrived as the lodge shut down for its break during the last week of July. When we returned on the 31 July, a few more were here and the Grizzly Bears were hungrily waiting at the mouth of the river. There were few fish to catch and we began to come to conclusions that the Pinks were indeed going extinct as has been prophesized by many environmentalists. The second week of August corrected our thinking as a large numbers of fish arrived in the cove and began moving up the shallow Glendale River. The run has continued throughout August and there are still large numbers of Pinks waiting at the river mouth and in the estuary. Since we have had very little rain throughout the summer and there have been many temperature records broken for heat, the water in the lakes and rivers is very low and too warm to be healthy for fish. As the spawnning channel filled with fish, an estimated 6000 to 8000 fish perished in the warm, oxygen depleted water. The DFO decided to increase the water flow from Tom Browne lake and close the weir to any more fish for the time being. The die off has stopped as the fish await the time to spawn. The Glendale river has had a die off also as the fish wait in the pools while they ripen and prepare for their life mission to be completed. With the river being so low and the fish spread out along the full length of the spawnning channel and the river, the bears have had a very easy time of fishing. They do not have to congregate in large stressful numbers around prime fishing holes. Times are good for the bears and they have already started to look fat and healthy. There are 2 females each with 2 male, 18 month old cubs. These family groups are a great joy to watch as they playfully learn to fish. The cubs don't worry too much if the salmon escapes their inexpirienced claws because the next meal is right there. Moms are teaching the cubs to eat only the choice parts of the fish so as to gain the highest number of calories per mouthful. Delicate and tastey salmon roe, brains and beautiful pink flesh are eaten with relish. We can hear the bones crack and the flesh tear as the salmon is torn apart by the powerful animals. The smell of rotting fish permeates the air and the sounds of the water is drowned out by the calls of the Gulls, Ravens, Crows and Eagles who have also gathered for this annual feast.
Also present is a large male who appears to be courting and young female bear. Most mating is thought to happen and be completed by July, but we should not jump to conclusions when we witness this behavior in front of our eyes. We will continue to monitor this courtship.
Patches has returned for the third season looking fat and healthy, but with no cub in tow. I had assumed last year that she may be due for a family soon, maybe next year.
I believe I saw Princess 1 time this season. She was not on her usual rocky perch, rather she patrolled the river under the tree stand one day. As this is the first season for her to be on her own, she will be a very nervous and cautious bear.
The large male bear who dominated the weir last season is also back. He is readily recognizeable by one gimpy rear leg. It had an injury of some sort causing his leg to be very thin and weaker than the other, but his spirit is still strong and he is a very able and accomplished fisher.
Bonnie continues to wander the river mouth as does Lenore and BP II (Burnt Peanut the second). All the bears look very health and in good shape for the hibernation season fast approaching. BP II looks like he could roll like a ball. He is sooo round and his fur is very lush and long. Lenore has also recovered from the long summer of nursing a hungry and demanding cub. She had a minor tiff with a second female bear who seemed to hang around close by all summer. I wonder if it may be a sibling of hers?
A pair of sub-adult females showed up a few days ago to put on a show of bear wrestling and boxing in the pool. They develope skills with these friendly matches that may be used in years to come when they will have to protect their cubs and themselves.
A large male flopped down in the pool opposite the finger a few days ago and proceeded to have a bath, using a dead salmon as soap. He rubbed this odorous morsel all over his belly and private parts as he laid on his back in the warm water.
The whole river system and the forest need a good rain. It would help the fish out with the higher, healthier water flows required to prepare for their final mission of life. After having travelled so many miles, facing uncountable dangers they will be pairing up as the female salmon prepare their redd. Once the nest is finished, she will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them immediately. She will gently cover the fertilized eggs with gravel and float away to die within a few days. Both hers and her mates bodies will then feed the river's inhabitants, the predators and the forest to complete a wonderful, healthy circle of life.

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