Monday, December 10, 2012

A walk in the woods....

There are no large wild or feral mammals on my island (no badgers, hares or foxes even - the biggest animal I've seen here on land was a feral ferret DOR), there were no large wild animals on my last island either (just mongooses and on a couple of the other islands feral donkeys, goats and cattle). I have become used to this absence and yet I feel it keenly (as I know does my most nature loving friend here). Travelling to places to see Big Nature has become a habit I don't want to kick but the idea of living somewhere where Big Nature, possibly even Big Dangerous Nature, may be encountered on a day-to-day basis, by chance fills me with glee and awe........and so to Vancouver Island, Canada.

I arrived, as I invariably do in such places with, a list of things to try and see. Near the top of that list was Vancouver Island Black Bear (Ursus americanus vancouveri) and yet I have not had great look with bears. I struck out with Sloth Bear in Sri Lanka, missed Black Bear in California despite being surrounded by very fresh bear paw prints with everyone else in the hotel seeing them regularly and when I finally got my first bear in the wild, an Indian sloth bear disappeared in 3 seconds at high speed and extreme range. Such has been my luck with bears. So when I was told the coastal wildlife boats would not be going out as planned I wasn't surprised. My plan you see had been to enjoy dolphins and seal-lions on such a boat and hopefully maybe see black bear working the shoreline. Apparently this happens quite often. But not for me. and so I went for a walk in the woods. Buoyed my lovely breakfast waitresses comments that the Quintan River Salmon Hatchery was worth a look as an interesting attraction and that some people saw bears there I took a trip there. I walked in the woods. Past the bear warning signs. And saw nothing. No, not nothing, beautiful leaves....

.....  but no bear.

And so I gave up my dream a little and went sight seeing.

These huge maidenhair ferns transfixed me.

and the falls I hiked to see were pretty spectacular....


But waiting down the trail was something better. Through the leaves I became aware of some dark movement 75 yards or so away on the other side of the river and instantly knew what was resolving into view through the shrubbery: Black Bear!

My first really good sighting of bear in the wild. It was awesome, just me and the bear for a minute or two. A huge animal just going about it's business. No professional guide, no hide or safari bus just me, my rucksack, camera and a bear. My adrenalin levels were through the roof; I was shaking with excitement. Eventually I was joined by a trail runner who was pleasantly surprised to see the bear but mentioned he'd seen them a few times here. He also added that he'd seen cougars on the trail more than once. When I eventually walked on I did so with my eyes wide open.

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