In September 2015 I was watching grizzly bears feed on salmon from a viewing stand at Knight Inlet Lodge, in BC. Below me several bears were ‘snorkelling’ for dead salmon at the bottom of a deep pool of water. This technique is used by bears to look for dead salmon that have sunk to the bottom of a pool of water. After spotting the salmon the bears usually use their hind legs to kick the salmon carcass to the surface.
Most people that observe this behaviour will tell you that bears don’t like to get their ears wet, and it’s true most bears don’t. However here at Knight Inlet Lodge we have seen two or three bears that will quickly dive down for a morsel of salmon. Jacques takes it to the next level, he will fully submerge and disappear for up to 30 seconds at a time while swimming around under the water looking for fish.
It is a fascinating behaviour to witness because it displays a unique approach to searching for food, highlighting just how highly adaptable grizzly bears are as they can exploit new food sources and ways of obtaining food. In diving for food in this way the bear is exploiting food that is out of reach or sight of some of the other bears using the well observed snorkelling method.
Jacques has been known at Knight Inlet Lodge since 2013 when he was first observed diving for fish in the same place. From his size and build he is clearly a mature male, putting him at around 8 years or older.
The other remarkable thing about Jacques is his comfort around people. To date we have only seen him in the open during the day early in the Salmon season, a time when he may be a little more food stressed, trying to build up weight for his winter hibernation. Bears on the coast almost exclusively rely on a good return of salmon to ensure they make it through this time of year as they prepare for hibernation.
Jacques is happy to fish in front of the guests of the lodge during the day something that other mature males are not willing to do. Other males (and even Jacques himself later in the year) are more typically nocturnal, or fishing in areas of the river away from people. Seeing this bear in the open like this during hunting season draws attention to the Trophy Hunt which is currently still practised in British Columbia, had this bear come out to feed in front of the wrong riverside stand, even just a few rivers away from this one he could have been shot and turned into a rug. His trust of people or need to feed could end up making him vulnerable to trophy hunters and his amazing behaviour would be lost.
Licensing and Press enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2015 John Kitchin @_kitchinsink. Filmed on a Canon 5dmkiii using f2.8l 70 – 200 mm USM lens.