Monday, July 12, 2010

Salmon, Sealions and Bears, Oh My!

Yesterday started as a normal coastal Alaska day, cold and rainy. As Helen and I were walking the dogs, the aroma of bacon cooking wafted through the campground. We made an instant decision to have breakfast at the Totem Inn, a hotel and restaurant across the parking lot. The breakfast was delicious and they do breakfast a little different up here. Of course, after smelling bacon, I ordered Bacon and eggs, expecting two very, thin very crisp pieces of bacon. Instead I got six or seven pieces of slab bacon, much thicker than normal and delicious. I had to bring two back to the dogs and it was well appreciated.

Helen went shopping while I stayed with the dogs, and when she returned we went to Solomon Creek to see the Sea Lions that come in to feast on the salmon. The tide was in and there were countless people fishing so the sea lions stayed away. We went back to the camper for a few hours and returned around 9:00 PM.

There were about sixteen sea lions attending this feast and they were a sight to see. First of all, the pictures do not do them justice; they are HUGE, with heads as big as a grizzly bear. They would feast and feast until they were full, then they would grab another salmon and play with it, shaking it violently and sending its remains to the waiting sea gulls.

Next to the salmon stream is a fish hatchery where they process over 430 million eggs a year, and ending up with 250 million salmon fry that are released. That's quite a feat. About 35% of the released salmon return in the nets of the local commercial fishermen. Across from the hatchery is the Solomon Creek Hydro-electric plant. As a retired power plant operator I was very interested in this rather small operation. I rang the bell and Mark, the sole operator there, let me in. I had a very nice visit and learned how this electric plant worked. My plant was nearly one million megawatts, so this 12 megawatt plant was tiny by comparison. I learned a couple of things about the plant, and I also learned that each evening around 11:00 PM, a mother bear and her three cubs would visit the salmon run. It was almost 10:00 when I rejoined Helen and told her about the bears. We decided to wait along with about 75 other people.

I was watching the area near the electric plant where they were seen the night before. Right at 11, Helen noticed a commotion at the other end of the parking lot. We could see a small bear cub working his way along the shore.

Soon we could see his mother and a sibling following behind.

The third cub was bringing up the rear. For the most part, the four bears were not bothered by all the people, but at one point the mother let out a growl that sent a lot of people back.

This is the bear family, all in one shot. She is a Brown or Grizzly Bear. They are much bigger than the black bear, but for some reason they don't run into trouble with humans as often as black bears do.

We watched the bears for about a half hour. They caught and ate a number of salmon and we were thrilled to see the cubs catch their own. The mother would put her paw down on a salmon and then pick it up by the tail. Then she would carefully and almost daintily eat the salmon piece by piece. At one point, they were only 30 feet from our car, but there were people between our car and the bears. One fellow in his early twenties grabbed a salmon and presented it to the bears by walking closer to them. It was a silly stunt that had no ill effects, but his girlfriend was really ticked off. These pictures were taken without flash between 11:00 and 11:30 PM.

Having seen such a sight, we started back to the campground, but the day wasn't over yet. About half a mile out of town we saw two female moose in a marshy area beside the road. What a great day!

No comments:

Post a Comment