|Home||Back||Forward||August 11, 1998: Sharing the Lake With the Cubs|
Every time we walk with the cubs these days, it seems that we learn more about the social structure of the bear world, and it is a lot gentler and accepting than we are ever led to believe by popular belief about bears.
There are several areas near the shore of Kambalnoe Lake where spring water wells up from the lake bottom and it is these places that the sockeye salmon spawn. (I discovered them last November when the rest of the lake froze over and these areas stayed free of ice.) Our cubs have difficulty catching these fish at first and they are often afraid to compete with the other bears for the few that they do get. But all of the pacific salmon species die after spawning so there are beginning to be some dying salmon that are catchable now, so we have been going with them for encouragement. They have always seemed to have some vestigial hope that we could suddenly become like real mothers and catch the salmon for them as they have watched other families often enough to know what they missed out on most of their life.
It takes a real good fisher bear to lake fish successfully and one such bear that we have been watching here for several years is a special bear to us for another reason as well because she was the first one to decide that we were trust worthy people when we first built our cabin in 96. She would eat pine nuts right outside the cabin window or sleep near the path to the place where we get our water by bucket, so to see her with her first set of beautiful cubs this season was a big thrill for Maureen and myself. However, even with this relationship of trust, she was not exactly happy when we showed up with our cubs at the bay where she has staked out fishing rights for the summer. She saw us together with the cubs last year but even so it causes real interest to all bears to see two people with large cubs traveling through this country and we get a big kick out of watching their surprise, especially the first encounter.
When the five of us first came upon the four of them(she also has three cubs) a couple days ago, she quite politely tried to move us off her beach but our cubs sat down right behind us and let us talk her out of this idea. She came within twenty five yards before deciding we were not going to be intimidated. Today, when we went back to her beach, our cubs decided to approach her on their own and the female let them look for salmon right next to her family while sitting on her bum in a very accepting manner, now seeming perfectly willing to share this spot with a threesome of obviously under privileged bears with parents who refused to even get their feet wet let alone gab a salmon with their mouth. Our cubs, on the other hand are learning to fish on their own probably a couple years ahead of their wild counterparts and when they do manage to catch one they are heaped with praise which they respond to with obvious pride by parading the big fish back and forth in front of us and showing it to the other sisters. We don't think that they would ever want to trade us for a real mother.