“If a pine needle falls in the forrest the deer hears it, the eagle sees it and the bear smells it” (First Nations saying)
On the inland lea of the Coastal Mountains, bordered by the Fraser River and known to the Chilcotin people as Red Ochre River, the Chilko River is the largest natural, high elevation, freshwater system in North America. Western Hemlock, Red Cedar and old growth Douglas Fir stand like sentinels, protecting herds of Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Mule Deer and Grizzly Bears. Ravaged by wildfires and under pressure from declining salmon stocks, the Grizzly Bears persevere, arriving at the Chiko River in the fall. Drawn by the salmon run, Grizzlies build energy for their 7 month winter hibernation. Born during hibernation, cubs are sightless and hairless relying on their mother’s energy reserves to grow.
Calm around people unless startled or threatened, I had the privilege to observe a mother Grizzly and her 3 cubs, sharing in their daily routine of play, sensing possible danger with a keen sense of smell and fishing for nutrient rich salmon. Like young siblings, I watched as the cubs tussled, squabbled and rumbled, chastised by their mother for falling behind.