Fresh salmon on the menu for bears

//Fresh salmon on the menu for bears

bearsalmon.jpgAlaska is the far north, right? Alaska is cold. Alaska is wet. In Ketchikan they measure their annual rainfall in feet rather than inches, and they have clear skies on only about 20 days a year.
Well the sun is certainly shining on Captain Greybeard right now. Last week in the Canadian Rockies we were rained on only briefly in the tourist trap town of Banff – where there were plenty of shops and bars to shelter – and at Lake Louise – where we could simply stay inside the Fairmont Hotel watching the biggest, brightest rainbow ever.
Today, as cruise ship Diamond Princess berthed in Ketchikan, the temperatures soared into the high 70s again, which would be perfect in any other circumstances, but which had the disadvantage of discouraging black bears from coming out to play on the beach.
Taking a $369 Princess-organised excursion, we flew by 10-seater de Havilland Otter to Neets Bay in the Tongass National Forest, where a salmon hatchery produces more than 100 million fry and smolt each year from the adult salmon which swim in from the Pacific to lay their eggs.
Those salmon also draw black bears, eating as much as they can to build up their bodies’ reserves before hibernating through the winter.
From what I saw today, they are greedy creatures. Salmon, swimming in their hundreds through shallow streams up the beach are helpless when a bear splashes into the water and grasps a fish between its jaws.
Carrying it flapping and flailing to higher ground, the bear eats only its favourite parts – perhaps the roe, or a particularly juicy fillet – before abandoning the rest of the fish to the scavenging gulls, ravens and bald eagles which lie in wait.
Even in the woods behind the beach there were rotting fish carcases, and plenty of evidence of what else bears do among the trees.
According to bear guide Mike, the sun kept many of the creatures in the cool shade rather than sweltering in the open in their heavy coats – no wonder guardsmen faint during Trooping the Colour ceremonies.
But we were still fortunate enough to see about half a dozen, including lumbering adult males, a playful ‘teenager’ of about three, and finally, as we were returning to the plane, a mother and her young cub.
Back in Ketchikan, there was plenty more evidence of the abundance of spawning salmon – they were fighting their way upstream past the former gold rush brothels on Creek Street, and they were leaping from the water in the harbour.
I wonder what’s on the menu for dinner tonight?

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:23+00:00 17 August 2010|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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