There’s nothing like watching a grizzly do its thing on Canada’s wild northwest coast. Doing what bears do and have done for thousands of years.
They’re eating sedge grass that grows thick and rich along the ocean’s edge – swiping at it with powerful paws and wolfing it noisily back. (They’ll do this through summer until the salmon run in early fall.)
They’re rearing up and leaning against ancient cedar trees to scratch their backs – swaying to and fro like shaggy hula dancers with big, swinging bellies.
And they’re cooling off in salty waters, rolling and floating – the surprisingly graceful swimmers that they are – before hoisting their enormous wet frames back onto shore and strolling lazily through fields of Indian paintbrush.
What I saw during my visits to the Khutzeymateen – one of Canada’s only protected wild grizzly bear sanctuaries – changed me and my view of the Canadian wilds forever.
As a result, I tell everyone I know about “The Khutz” – named after a local Tsimpshian word for “place of bear and salmon” and located along Canada’s northwest coast not far from Prince Rupert, B.C.
Jeff Gailus – award-winning writer, environmental activist and author of The Grizzly Manifesto – gets it.
Gailus will argue there’s no better way to understand the importance of protecting these vulnerable animals – once said to put the “wild in wilderness” – than to observe them in their own home.
“Anyone who has watched grizzlies live their lives – running down a bison calf for breakfast, plucking juicy berries with tender lips for supper, making love for days on end before moving on to other pastures – cannot help but see ourselves in their eyes,” wrote Gailus recently in an e-mail.
For sure, heading into this remote region of Canada – along with an informed tour guide like Doug Davis from Prince Rupert Adventure Tours (who I highly recommend) – was a thrilling adventure.
What remains, on the other hand, is so much bigger.