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  • Writer's pictureMike Curtis

Yes - Grizzlies

After the disappointment of Bella Coola we headed back up ‘the Hill’, a 1000 metre plus ascent via a muddy gravel road, to the Chilcotin Plateau. On ascending the hill the weather immediately changed from heavy rain to sun and blue sky. An hour and a half later we arrived at Tatla Lake where we met up with some of the local characters for coffee and cake, from where we embarked on an 80 km journey along a gravel road to our Grizzly destination.

We arrived to be told by the resort manager “the bears left a few days ago”. We were utterly crest fallen, but it was too late and too far to turn around and go somewhere else. Dejected we moved into our cabin, grabbed our cameras and headed out to take a boat trip along the river, only to find a sow (female bear) and two cubs on the opposite bank fishing for Sockeye salmon. For about an hour we watched the sow casually plucking huge salmon out of shallow and deep water with aplomb. Although a distant view it was thrilling to see bear behaviour with our own eyes. Brian the resort managed casually said “oh she’s back”.

The next morning we awoke at 6:30 to be ready for first light. No sooner had we stepped outside than we saw a huge male Grizzly walking along the shore of a small island in the middle of the river. Awesome. We then headed to the north end of the resort where we again found the sow with two cubs that were in playful mood. As the family left the river and entered the forest we spotted another bear, scavenging dead salmon. Five bears in 2 hours.

The rest of the day pasted without any bears. We occupied ourselves with filming the salmon and photographing birds. With light fading we abandoned hope of more bears and were watching the clouds building on the mountain at the end of the lake when a Grizzly strolled along the lake shore toward us and across the beach in front our our cabin. Before you could say “Chilcotin” we were outside with cameras in hand standing on the decking watching a beautiful blonde Grizzly bear eating salmon. By running through the resort we were able to get ahead of her and watch it all again. Magnificent, exhilarating!!

The long journey was worth it even if the photographic opportunities were not what I’d hoped.

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