The forecast was for rain today so everyone was advised to bring raingear for our trip to Anan. The ride over in the speed boat was flat calm without rain. We stopped along the way to view seals hauled out on a low rock, waterfalls, landslides and a pictograph. Upon arrival, we started on out mile walk around an estuary surrounded by an old growth rain forest. Every surface was thick with moss and draped in lichens. The high pitched whistle of eagles and the hollow caw of ravens could be heard all around us. Green ferns with shiny licorice black stems, bright orange “chicken-of-the-woods fungus, colorful berries and sulfur-yellow mushrooms delighted our eyes.
The stream was choked with pink salmon awaiting their turn to fight their way upstream to spawn. Before reaching the platform, a mother brown bear sow and her two healthy cubs were feeding in the salmon-choaked stream. Mama was sitting in the water, her head submerged in the cold water to view the fish while chubby shiny coated babies watched her technique and tried it out for themselves. We quietly watched her until she and the cubs moved to another area to continue their hunt.
The unenclosed platform is simply a wooden structure with a 4-foot railing around it. Black bears are all around along the riverbanks and appearing and disappearing into the rocks and greenery. Each bear employs its own fishing technique, and each has staked out its own fishing spot. It is soon clear that some have a better fishing location than others as well as a more effective technique. Each bear is intent on fishing and has little tolerance for trespassers on its claim. Some jump into the water with their entire body, others swipe the water with their huge, clawed paws, others employ the snorkeling method used by the mama brown bear and others simply bite the fish as they swim by. It is fascinating to watch the different techniques and predict the pecking order as one bear approaches another, it’s not always brawn that wins.
Bears are amazingly agile creatures! Climbing up boulder faces and felled logs, walking on slippery rocks and jumping up to perches or down to landings. Some are obviously well fed as indicated by their rotund bodies but also by their choosy appetite. While some bears eat the entire fish, others choose just the belly, skin and head, ignoring what we would consider the best parts! Others catch a fish and simply release the fish they just caught. This befuddled me until I realized that they preferred the egg filled females and rejected the males.
Gulls, ravens, and eagles were all part of the mix. Everyone was here for the feast and there was plenty to be had. One platform was built along the Creeks edge under a camouflage blind. This vantage was much closer and provided intimate views of the animals. A sow and her cub were perched on the edge of the platform, a little too intimate, watching another bear fish directly below them. Two adolescent bears across the stream were challenging each other swiping, and growling at each other as siblings will.
After 3 hours, it was time to exit the platform however, we had to wait for a bear to evacuate the area we needed to pass through. The walk back was calm and peaceful and we all felt very fortunate to have experienced raw, wild nature in a rain forest (and without any of the forecasted rain!)
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