The research project in Glendale Cove that Mel Clapham is running has captured photos of a new grizzly male. Mel has been able to identify him as a returning male from a couple of years ago since he has a distinctive piece of his nose missing. Nicknamed Diablo by our staff the first time he appeared it will be interesting to see how long he stays in our area. The photos in this blog are of another of our grizzly males with the rather fancy nickname of Pretty Boy. The photos are from one of Mel’s research cameras, we appreciate her sharing them with us.
Grizzly Bear Research in Glendale Cove
Some of you who have visited the lodge in the past three years may have met me during your stay. My name is Melanie Clapham and I have been conducting research out of Knight Inlet Lodge since 2009. My research is looking into how grizzly bears communicate with each other using their sense of smell. This forms the basis of my whole PhD project, of which I am now in my final year. My project is co-funded by Knight Inlet Lodge and the University of Cumbria in the UK. This is where I am based during the winter months, analysing the data I have collected in the previous summer/fall, and writing up my findings. I am now back at the lodge conducting my final field season, and will be here until October. When I am here my days are usually spent searching the estuary for bears, and out in the forest maintaining my trail cameras. These heat and motion-sensitive cameras are the main method of data collection I am using. By placing these cameras facing bear ‘marking trees’ (or ‘rub trees’ as they’re known), I am able to monitor natural scent marking behaviour by different individuals in the population. This way I am also able to assess whether its adult males which seem to be communicating, or adult females, or subadults, and so on. I am also looking at which individuals investigate the scent marks of others, but don’t actually mark on trees themselves. By conducting this data collection between May and October, I can assess how marking behaviour changes during different seasons i.e. the breeding and non-breeding season.
In addition to looking at the social function of scent marking, I have also been documenting the trees which bears mark on. Focusing on what we call ‘traditionally used trees’ which are trees marked on by different bears over many generations, I am looking at whether it is the species, the size, or the location of the tree which makes it favourable to be marked on over others. I believe this is key to explaining the use of trees for scent marking by bears, rather them just been used to relieve an itch. It seems that the selection of these trees is much more structured. So by studying differences in marking behaviour by different age and sex classes, and analysing the trees which bears use to mark on, we are beginning to fit different pieces of the puzzle together in understanding the complexities of chemical communication in grizzly bears.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dean Wyatt and all the staff at Knight Inlet Lodge for their continued support and field assistance throughout this whole project.
University of Cumbria
Knights Inlet, Sept. 2009 four days that will be etched in my memory forever and when my memory fails, I have my photos to look back on (thanks to Phil and team for returning my camera after I left it behind).
The people you meet. Being an animal person myself I have little time for people. However through the common goal of seeing grizzly bears in the wild we some how magically came to know those strangers sitting across from us at Vancouver airport. In fact we now email one another to share our stories and photos of our great adventure at Knights Inlet.
Day one involved boarding a small plane (I did not realize the planes would get smaller as the trip progressed) in Vancouver and flying to Campbell River. On arrival at Campbell River we were taken to our accommodation. Whilst researching my bear holiday I noted in blogs people were dissatisfied with having to stop over at Campbell River the night prior to continuing onto the bears. Well all I can say is make the most of it, see the museum, watch the tall cruise ships out on the horizon, enjoy the wild weather, which makes that meal at the local eatery all that much better. Then finally walk back to the accommodation, watch a bride get married out on the pier and wonder what was she thinking, wonder how the locals live, take photos of the old Chinese monument, the driftwood and gigantic kelp that lay in the water, enjoy the wild weather and the emotions of anticipation of what lays ahead.
As we arrive at the float plane terminal we see two tiny, small, minute, float planes moored at the jetty. The weather is dark and stormy and we are supposed to get on these things, oh my god, what we do to see grizzly bears in the wild. Anyways it goes to say, they got us there safely.
As we get to the other end we are greeted by a leprechaun of a looking man playing an accordion and two dogs jumping around with excitement as we land. We are quickly debriefed and given the guided tour and then loaded into awaiting tinnies. As we come around the first bend, not more than five minutes from our camp we spot a grizzly and her two cubs. The cameras go wild and the scene is set. We sat and watched in ore for about half hour.
We then moved on to find more bears and wildlife such as eagles. On return to camp we were served a delicious lunch. After lunch we tried to figure out what clothes we were suppose to wear to go up the river to view the scenery. Was it the red suit with the green boots or the blue suit with the red hat hmmm? Any ways I think we got it right in the end as we stayed dry and warm, even after our tour guide tried to drown us under a waterfall.
After our sightseeing tour we returned to camp for a much earned cup of coffee and cake, oh so yummy. Next we boarded and old school bus and were taken down a windy track to the bear lookouts. There was a bit of waiting for the bears to turn up obviously someone failed to let them know we were coming. However while we waited we did get to learn about the tragic life of a salmon. If you ever think your life sucks remember the poor salmon. Just as we were about to leave, a bear decided to grace us with his or her presence. We all watched the bear fish for salmon, shredding them with its large claws. Cameras were going crazy, people were whispering amongst themselves and jostling for a better viewing spot. At this stage a good lens would have come in handy, which sadly we did not have. However those kind strangers from the airport lent us one of their lenses so we could get better photos, thankyou. You think that would be enough for the day. We returned to camp to sit down to a great meal and discuss the days adventures with our fellow bear enthusiasts. Later that night we were entertained with an informative talk on whales. We then returned to our cabin and sat up to midnight talking to our Aussie cabin mates. What a day.
Up bloody early the next morning, I was still tired from the day prior. Following a yummy breakfast, pancakes yum o. How did they know they are my favourite? We headed out to look for more bears. It wasn’t to long a wait and cameras and people once again were in a frenzy. More great photos.
Today we were asked what we wanted to do. We were given the choice of whale watching, kayaking, or bear poo tracking. Well what can I say, bear poo tracking hands down! Where there is bear poo (scat) there are bears. Plus we got to learn about the bear’s habitat, their rubbing trees, their sleepy holes etc. However the highlight of this little tour was seeing how gullible my husband was. Our guide told us that if we licked a slug, not just any little garden slug, it was a big blob of a thing with spots that made your tongue go numb. Your name would go down in history. In other words you got to put you name in a book at the lodge to signify that you were stupid enough to lick a grose slug. Well guess who volunteered? I’m glad they didn’t tell him to run naked through the bush with honey all over him to attract the bears, who knows what would have happened.
We were fed well through out the day and given multiple opportunities to view bears. Later that evening we were provided an in service on the mythology of whales or bears, something like that. On return to our cabin the Aussie house mates had a rip roaring fire, a few yarns were passed around and once again after midnight we retired to bed.
My husband was up at four in the morning suffering from a cold or maybe the slug had shared something more than a numb tongue. He was sitting in the lounge of our cabin when he was given his own private comedy show, presented by the one and only knights inlet otters. He tried to ply me out of bed to watch the antics of the otters, but I wearily mumbled “im tired”, I was exhausted. In the morning he told me of the show that they put on and how they kept setting off the night sensor lights as they would pitter patter across the deck. I now regretted not getting out of bed to see them.
Early to rise once again. As I did with each morning I sat on the front deck of the cabin and just enjoyed the moment and the scenery. However this morning was different, I started to hear gurgling noises coming from behind me, was the cabin sinking? Then I noticed splashes here and there in the water. Finally a little head popped up in front of me. It was a little furry faced otter (not official binomial nomenclature – scientific name). He was checking to see if the coast was clear. He looked at me and I at him, he wasn’t going to risk it. He then with his entourage of otters swam over to the moored tinnies. Somehow the next thing I know they are all in the tinnies rolling around playing like little kittens. Well the dogs wanted in on the game, however the otters are a bit selective of whom they play. I came to this conclusion as the otters hastily exited the tinnies and speared back into the water to return to where ever it was they came. As legend goes they live under the end cabin at Knight Inlet Lodge. Hence apart from the bears those otters were the high light of our holiday and to elusive to be photographed.
After breakfast we did a quick trip up the estuary for some last minute bear viewing. We then reboarded the float plane to return home, people were a lot quieter now. I’m gathering they were doing what I was and reflecting back on what a great holiday it was, and how sad I was to be leaving. Thank you to all of you at Knights Inlet. Tracy Dean and Graham Badke, Queensland, Australia.
Here is a photo of the grizzly sow with her 3 cubs. Note how the one is almost white in colour. This photo was taken by Knight Inlet Lodge guide Moira Le Patourel.
One guest who was at Knight Inlet Lodge on a 3 night package reports seeing 23 grizzly bears during his stay. A repeat guest on his third visit to our lodge he called this a “thrill of a lifetime” and will be back yet again in a couple of years.
This rare photo of a cougar in the wild was taken by a remote motion sensor camera mounted in Glendale Cove. This project, jointly funded by Knight Inlet Lodge and the University of Cumbria is aimed at studying grizzly bears and their rub trees
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