Watching Grizzlies & Wolves in Canada

Karami Ure travelled on our 'Spirit Bears, Grizzlies & Humpbacks - Cruising the Great Bear Rainforest' holiday and submitted this entry to our writing competition.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear, Canada

It is early morning. Moored far from any habitation, it is a perfect day to be on board a ship: flat calm with no wind. The post-dawn light is trying to force its way through the ephemeral clouds that hang on the nearby hills and trees of the Canadian rain forest. Our small group emerges from the cabins, waking to a swift hot drink and snack. On deck we can hear, once more, the howls of Wolves. All of us are still excited by a close encounter with a Grizzly Bear the previous evening. We tease our guides: ‘How can you match yesterday? You set the bar so high!’

Trying to be quiet, we board the two Zodiac boats for the first trip of the day. While one is still loading, the guide on the first boat signals: a Wolf is on the nearby shore. The boats edge towards where it was seen, their engine noise gently cutting through the deep silence that settled over the creek when the Wolves stopped calling.

Muted whispers of wonder fill the air as, one after another, each of us sees a beautiful, grey Wolf. Her fur is grey and brown, with a hint of ochre in it. She looks at us. She pauses, as if weighing us up, and then decides to just carry on. We watch her as she picks her way over logs and boulders, between bushes and behind trees as she traces her way along the rocky coast. Following her from the safety of the Zodiacs, we strain our eyes for each glimpse of her. Then, another surprise: a second Wolf is with her. He is dark, almost black in colour. He tracks her every move as she determines their course, and their pace. When she stops, he stops. When she skirts into the trees, he follows. When they pause to mark their territory, we know for sure which is male and which is female.

We are mesmerised. We do not notice when the gentle raindrops, which form soft ripples on the sea, start or stop. The Wolves blend into the conifer trees that cover the hillside. We sit still in the motionless boats. The silence is broken as the Wolves’ voices fill the air. Most feel the hairs on the backs of our necks, or give a slight shiver at the beauty and depth of the sound. It could be a love duet, but then, another pack of Wolves in the neighbouring creek join in the song. Each of us wonders at the haunting melodies that echo back and forth across the water, and around the hills. It seems most likely that ‘our’ Wolves have broken away from the pack, or are cutting through its territory. When silence falls again, it is deep. There is no musical encore. Just as we think the sighting is over, the two Wolves emerge from the depths of the wood, and weave their way along the shoreline to the head of the creek where they disappear from view.

Scarcely believing our luck at this close encounter, we round a bend in the river mouth, to see a full-grown Grizzly Bear gorging himself on fish from the river. It is teaming with salmon. The remarkable perfume ‘eau de rotting fish’ that has accompanied some of our shore trips assails our nostrils. The bear takes no notice of us, and carries on eating. We watch him. Suddenly he tenses. He lowers his head. He lifts his nose. This is one aggressive bear. He stares towards the trees where we had lost the Wolves. Has he seen them? Some long for a confrontation, perhaps secretly thinking: ‘Fight, fight, fight!’ Others want peace. The bear lunges, splashing noisily across the river. We see the black Wolf briefly appear on the far seashore, looking at and watching the Grizzly. The Wolf turns – and disappears swiftly into the trees, we guess to track the female.

Meanwhile, the Grizzly Bear seems to shrug his shoulders. He ignores us completely. He resumes his fishing and eating. There are plenty of salmon on which to feast. Eventually even his voracious appetite seems to be temporarily satisfied, and he turns away from us, and makes his way up the river and out of sight. As for us, we head back to our home for the week, the Island Roamer, and set sail for the next stage of our adventure. As we tuck into our late breakfast, we tease our guides again: ‘How can you match this – you’ve set the bar even higher?’ Little does anyone know how lucky we will be but that is for another day.

Read more about our 'Spirit Bears, Grizzlies & Humpbacks - Cruising the Great Bear Rainforest' holiday.