Encounter with a gentle soul - Strawberry the Spirit Bear

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Early one September morning, we counted ourselves among the most blessed people in that moment on the planet. This beautiful country of Canada! I was one of a handful of people who were brought by boat to the mouth of a stream on Gribbell Island. The first wave of pink salmon have started their migration upstream to become part of the complex ecosystem of the lush and green rainforest. The annual migration of salmon sets a chain of events in motion. Not only do the salmon come from the ocean to these fresh water streams (like generations before them) to find the precise stream that their lifecycle began in, but they also come here to give life to the next generation of salmon. In the same stream that they spawn and fertilize their eggs, their own lives come to it’s end. The dead salmon fulfill a wonderful purpose in becoming part of the forest. The nutrients get absorbed into the forest floor and the roots of the trees and so, the decomposed fish act as an important fertilizer to the plants. Birds come to feast on the salmon and bald eagles, ravens and seagulls among others, benefit from this. What brought us to this remote part of the world, is the chance to see one of the most beautiful creatures in it’s natural environment - the elusive Spirit bear. It is estimated that there are only between 150 to 400 of them, and they all live in these remote parts of the world. The Spirit bear has a recessive gene that is part of the black bear gene pool. They are born of an ordinary black bear and their offspring can also be black in colour. We were led by an experienced Git-gaa’at nations guide on a little hike over rocks and along a stream to a spot where our group sat down. Marven had a calm and quiet nature and explained to us that this was a good spot to observe bears hunting for salmon along the stream. We were thrilled to see two separate sightings of black bears fishing in the gentle rapids upstream. They were totally absorbed in the activity of diving into the water and bringing out a salmon, water dripping down their thick fur. But still we waited. Things were about to get very interesting. Six hours had passed, and then a Spirit bear appeared downstream from us. She was the most beautiful, gentle looking bear that I have ever seen. The Git-ga’at guide named her Strawberry and her demeanour was as sweet as her name. She slowly and gently appeared out of nowhere, crawled through and opening under a log, and calmly, almost elegantly, walked right past us. On the opposite side of the stream, Strawberry paused and I took a close-up of her with the dark moss-carpeted forest in the background and a glimpse of a sunray casting a golden gleam onto her thick coat. I remember being surprised by her soulful eyes which looked at us briefly before she continued on. She took a small detour into the forest to be able to reach the rapids above us. A black bear was busy fishing in the rapids and Strawberry approached respectfully. She managed to secure a salmon of her own and this is where I took the next image of her, scrunching up her nose while trying to get a decent bite into the salmon. She took a few bites and looked around a little longer, and then, disappeared as suddenly and gently as when she first appeared. The group stood there, smiles on every single person’s face and a look of absolute amazement and joy. What beauty creation beholds. May we never take this for granted. Thank you to the Git-ga’at nations guides and Maple Leaf Adventures for making this incredible experience possible.
Taken By
Rina Ansell
Taken On
October 25, 2021
#spiritbear #kermodebear #wildlifephotography #mapleleafadventures #bctourism bear mammal wildlife animal
  • Focal: 569
  • Lens Model: 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports 014
  • Shutter speed: 0.003125 sec
  • Aperture: f/ 6.3

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