Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Grizzly Bears Khutzeymateen Inlet

July 5, 2011
Underway Khutzeymateen Inlet

Day Anchorage to watch Sow with cubs: 54°36.3807N 129°59.2239W
Day Anchorage Tsamspanaknok Bay to wait out weather: 54°40.2161N 130°06.1759W
Ranger Float house: 54°36.5303N 129°58.1059W

Heading toward the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Reserve we started spotting bears a few miles outside the park. A sow with two cubs was feeding on grass near the waters edge and we ghosted LightSpeed toward the shore. The tidal range up the inlet can be 24' and the tide was high as we approached shore. So high that we could see shore grass underwater as we slid in close to observe the bears. At one point I was pretty sure we were going to run aground just 40' from the sow, but didn't want to make any noise with the engines to disturb the bears. The light breeze and currents carried us in close then back out providing a once in a lifetime show as the bears carried on their business unaware. It sure seems strange that a boat could get so close and not cause the least bit of concern to the bears, but apparently the bears have no concern with anything approaching from the seaward. Wow! What a show. Mother bear grazing at the waters edge, occasionally looking up to check on her cubs. Baby cubs with dark blackish brown coats roaming around occasionally standing on their haunches to look for mom or at us if we made a small sound. When the wind and currents had moved us away from shore after 30-40 minutes we proceeded to the Rangers Float house across the lagoon to check in. As it turns out there is a $15 fee per person per day to be in the park and just our luck we had no cash. So we headed back out of the park to observe the sow and cubs a bit more. We ended up dropping anchor 60' from shore and watching for a few hours until the receding tide forced us into deeper waters. Before the show was over we enjoyed the sights and sounds of hungry bear cubs as they tried to nurse. Momma bear may have been in the process of weaning the cubs as she was not interested and despite the hungry cries of the cubs she would run from them then stop and as they noisily cried for milk she would turn away again. One unlucky cub got the full brunt of momma bears frustration when momma bear turned, growled and gave the tiny cub a slobbery nip. We were so close to the action that you could see the saliva fly and hear every sound. What an unbelievable sight and we got it all on video so will be posting that shortly.

Moving with the tide we made our way down the inlet a few miles to an iffy anchorage, that just so happened to include another Grizzly, but this one much bigger and perhaps a male. Observing the bear for a while we finally dropped the anchor and even the racket of the chain illicited only the briefest of pauses from this hungry bear. We enjoyed watching the bear for several hours just 100' or so from the boat. Across the inlet we observed two other bears involved in a territorial dispute and watched some high speed chasing along the beach. Apparently a Grizzly bear can sprint at the speed of a horse over short distances

The overnight Anchorage near 54°37.3079N 130°01.3967W offered iffy holding in 15-20 meters and Southerly protection. Not perfect, but the best anchorage we could find short of entering the park.

The morning of July 5th the near shore bear was gone, but we again observed two bears across the inlet again working on their territorial rights and again some high speed chasing.

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