Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 17, 2012: Claws

August 17, 2012: Claws

It wasn’t just his size that amazed me, and that was impressive enough, nor was it the size of his head as he grabbed a chum salmon in his huge jaws and teeth. No what really impressed me and will always be in my memory is the size of his claws. While you could see them even as he walked but it was when he held a large chum salmon that the claws really became prominent.

It was the second time today that we were at the Fish Creek Boardwalk. Its located three miles out of Hyder, Alaska, and it is owned and maintained by the US Forest Service. It’s an elevated boardwalk that gives all a birdseye view of feeding Brown and Black Bears.

Arriving at a little after six am the first parking lot was full and so we had to park a little further down the road. The boardwalk had just opened and already there was a crowd of people hoping to catch a glimpse of bears feeding.

Below you could see chum, (dog), and humpies, (pink), salmon and it was the first time we have seen chum. They are quite a bit larger then pinks and they put on their own show as they jostled around the females. The larger males would push each other attempting to get a better position as the female turned sideways to dig her redd.

Many were talking, rather loudly I thought, and several were smoking cigarettes. One even lit up a pipe and I thought, do these people think they are in a zoo? It was obvious that they had never sat in a blind/stand and hunted or bird watched. Soon the road construction started and the road became busy as water trucks passed back and forth.

No bears showed up and so we drove back to camp, (we later learned that several bears showed up at 8:30 am). A couple with two kayaks told us of a lake where they had watched two grizzlies playing for over an hour. We drove up to Clements Lake but didn’t see any bears.

Returning to town we stopped at the visitor center and walked the boardwalk that extends out into the tidal marshes. After dinner we decided to head back to Fish Creek and hope to see a bear. Waiting patiently again I seethed as several women begin an animated and loud discussion in a different language. Finally they shut up and wandered away.

The forest service volunteer suddenly said bear and we watched as a large boar brown wadded out into the creek. It fished a bit before slowly wading up missing salmon. One ear was scarred from a previous fight and the same person said the bear was about eight hundred pound in size.

Cameras clicked and a crowd crammed around as he caught a salmon and gripped it with his teeth. Carrying it to a small rock island, it held the fish with its paws as it ate the skin and head of the fish. It seemed to have a taste for the skin as it left most of the carcass for the mew gulls.

Grabbing another salmon, he again would just eat the skin and maybe a bite or two of the rest. We watched it as it slowly fished the entire length of the boardwalk. The volunteers yelled at people to turn off their flash and several cars topped along the road.

One person even got out of his car and walked over to the edge of the road, having no idea how close he was to the huge set of teeth and claws. The Forest Service person yelled at the idiot to get back in your car!

The bear fed for an hour before going upstream and waded under a bridge before walking into the parking lot. Suddenly people begin pointing into the brush and a much smaller female brown appeared. She fed on some  leaves and then headed downstream, stopping to feed on left over fish.

Meanwhile the big boar returned and started wading downstream, smelling the air. The sow, picking up his scent, grabbed a salmon and ran into the brush. She knew better to tempt her fate! We continued to watch until the light became too low and so we returned to camp.

This is why we came to Alaska, to see bears feeding. It’s why we took the long and narrow Cassier Highway and it was worth the price of admission. I will never forget the claws and oh by the way children, monsters do exist. Clear skies

1 comment:

  1. So Exciting...Looking forward to your pix & getting there too.