I sailed into this rainforest on the Ocean Light II, a seventy-one-foot ketch. My companions included Jenn Broom, who owned the boat, Captain Chris Turloch, and biologist Jim Halfpenny. Along wave-scoured islands and in estuaries where the mouths of rivers met the sea we looked for bears-and found them.
On the sixth day of our journey, Chris took us to the Khutze Bay estuary. At first light, we left the sailboat in a small Zodiac inflatable boat. Keeping the outboard engine purring on low throttle to avoid disturbing the wildlife, we cruised slowly up an inlet. Chris stopped the boat against a seagrass-covered shore, and waited. It didn't take long.
Two figures emerged from the mist, walking toward us: a huge, beautiful grizzly bear mother and her tiny cub of the year. They stopped at the shore, thirty yards from us, where the bear mother immediately got down to business. She put her face into the water and swiftly pulled out what must've been a twenty-pound Coho salmon, its silver body flopping around, and passed it to her cub. The cub chewed on it a bit, and then dropped the slippery fish. She found the cub two other equally hefty salmon, which the cub promptly fumbled. The third one threw the cub off-balance, and both salmon and cub ended up in the water, where the fish swam off.
Grizzly Mother Teaching Cub to Fish, photo credit: Cristina Eisenberg