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article imageFirst Nation people feed starving grizzlies in British Columbia

By Karen Graham     Oct 3, 2019 in Environment
The impacts of the climate crisis on the food chain are already evident in British Columbia, Canada. With winter fast approaching, one family of starving grizzly bears are being fed farm-raised salmon by First Nation people.
Knight Inlet, north of Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the principal inlets along the province's coastline. This beautiful part of Canada's west coast is a prime viewing location for viewing grizzly bears, while the river system supports a phenomenal fall salmon run, according to VancouverIsland.com.
It is getting close to the time when bears begin their long hibernation for the winter, and normally, with an abundant fall salmon run, the grizzlies should be well-fattened up for their long sleep.
While the bears should be plump after gorging on salmon, the grizzlies tour operator and wildlife photographer Rolf Hicker saw on his visit to Knight Inlet a week ago were not. He visited at a time when the area was experiencing the worst salmon run in history. Basically, there were no salmon to be seen.
"Advertising still shows the happy bears feasting on salmon, well, sorry to sayโ€”not here," Hicker wrote Sept. 23 on Facebook, alongside photos of an emaciated sow and two cubs.
Salmon, a primary food source, has been on the decline in recent years, reports CNN. "I sure prefer to show you beautiful nice wildlife and nature pictures but it is important and my duty as a photographer to show you this side too," Hicker wrote, adding that he hadn't seen a single salmon on his trip.
First Nation guardians feed the bears
Jake Smith, Guardian Watchman Manager for the Mamalilikulla First Nation, says guardians have noticed serious problems with grizzlies and their food supplies since June. "We're really concerned about the bears. The bears have been starving because there's a lack of salmon return in Hoeya Sound and Lull Bay," said Smith, according to CTV News Canada.
The A-Tlegay Fisheries Society, through the Quinsam River Salmon Hatchery, donated 500 pink salmon on Sunday to Smith, who along with a group of volunteers distributed the fish on the river shorelines where grizzlies have been known to frequent.
Chief Kwakwabalas, Ernest Alfred from Swanson Island Fish Farm Occupation, at first was of a mind that we should allow nature to take its course, but he also felt something needed to be done. "We've had reports about starving grizzly bears in our territory for a number of years so this to me would be a very extreme measure taken to try to help our ecosystem," said Alfred.
Alfred makes a good point, if we take a moment to look at the bigger, more disturbing picture. Homeowners and residents in suburbs in Canada and the United States complain about the increasing numbers of wild bears and cougars coming into residential areas, obviously looking for food.
Just last week, North Island residents and wildlife observers expressed concerns about the worsening conditions of grizzly bears in the Broughton Archipelago. The bears are getting hungry and aggressive and are starting to move to other areas in the Central Coast of the province and Vancouver Island in order to find food, reports CBC Canada.
What we have in British Columbia now is a situation where feeding the bears will have to be continued. "I'm going to be bringing more up another week or a couple of days from now maybe," said Smith. "I'll probably make a few trips, actually."
Rolf Hicker says he posted the photos of the emaciated grizzly bear sows and their cubs to primarily illustrate his point. "I know of a few bears which, in my humble opinion, have got absolutely no chance to survive the winter โ€” if they even make it to the winter," Hicker said.
More about British columbia, Knight Inlet, Grizzly bears, salmon stocks, Starvation
 
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