Great Bear Rainforest Rambles and Spirit Bear Sightings

Candice Gaukel Andrews November 6, 2014 20
The current estimate is that there are less than 400 spirit bears. Most of them live on the British Columbia coast, in an area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island north to the Alaska panhandle. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The current estimate is that there are less than 400 spirit bears. Most of them live on the British Columbia coast, from the northern tip of Vancouver Island north to the Alaska panhandle. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Running 250 miles down the British Columbia, Canada, coast, the Great Bear Rainforest is a wild expanse of western cedars, hemlocks, and spruce trees. This twenty-one million-acre area — whose boundaries have never been precisely defined — is the largest coastal temperate rainforest on Earth. Here, black bears, grizzly bears, spirit bears, whales, and wolves find homes and sustenance in the mist-shrouded valleys, old-growth stands, glacier-cut fjords, and rich marine channels.

Not only is the Great Bear Rainforest bursting with megafauna, it is flowing with flora, including invaluable medicinal plants. Because of its treasures, however, diverse stakeholders — such as loggers, environmentalists, local communities, ecotourism operators, and governments — vie for the rights to use this natural resource. Luckily, in the past few years, all parties have come together to create an internationally recognized, groundbreaking model of conservation. In 2006 and 2009, a series of formal agreements were established to:

  • Protect 6.5 million acres of the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Set rules for lighter-touch logging, which currently require that 50 percent of the natural level of old-growth forest in the region be maintained. This translates into an additional 1.7 million acres of forest set aside from logging.
  • Make available to First Nations communities a $120 million fund to help start a new conservation economy as an alternative to logging and to help manage conservation efforts in their rainforest territories.
  • Establish new governance and decision-making protocols. A new relationship between First Nations and the British Columbia government gives indigenous people a say in resource management on their lands and puts in place new processes for collaboration.

While under the current rules 50 percent of the natural level of old forest must be maintained, ecology experts say that the Great Beat Rainforest will not be safe until 70 percent is preserved. The province and industry have agreed to this goal.

If you are able, I encourage you to travel to the Great Bear Rainforest and let its beauty speak to you firsthand about how important it is to protect it. In the meantime, however, I hope my photo journal, below, will begin to convince you.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

Dubbed “Canada’s Amazon,” the Great Bear Coast is one of the world’s greatest natural treasures, encompassing natural beauty, diverse wildlife and plants, history, and many cultures. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Dubbed “Canada’s Amazon,” the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world’s greatest treasures, encompassing natural beauty, diverse wildlife and plants, history, and many cultures. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Is the Great Bear Rainforest an ocean-influenced forest, or a forest-influenced ocean? Either way, it is an internationally significant ecosystem. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Is the Great Bear Rainforest an ocean-influenced forest, or a forest-influenced ocean? Either way, it is an internationally significant ecosystem. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Due to a salmon-rich fall diet, the grizzly bears of coastal B.C. are big — some grow to be more than a thousand pounds. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Due to a salmon-rich fall diet, the grizzly bears of coastal B.C. are big — some grow to be more than a thousand pounds. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Icons of the wilderness, grizzly bears have one of the lowest reproductive rate of any North American mammal. If optimum conditions exist, breeding females will produce only one to three cubs at two- to three-year intervals. One-third of all litters die before the end of their first year, and at least 70 percent of all young die before reproducing. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Icons of the wilderness, grizzly bears have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any North American mammal. If optimum conditions exist, females will produce only one to three cubs at two- to three-year intervals. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The hump on the grizzly bear’s back that distinguishes it from a black bear is a thick wad of muscle that gives this bears a powerful digging ability. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The hump on the grizzly bear’s back that distinguishes it from a black bear is a thick wad of muscle that gives this bear a powerful digging ability. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the few places on Earth where you might discover a grizzly bear on an isolated beach, a black bear in a thick stand of trees, a spirit bear along a stream, and a humpback whale breaching the surface of the sea, all in one day. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the few places on Earth where you might discover a grizzly bear on an isolated beach, a black bear in a thick stand of trees, a spirit bear along a stream, and a humpback whale breaching the surface of the sea, all in one day. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Every year, humpbacks in the entire Pacific population, extending from Alaska to Mexico to Hawaii, sing the same song — and every year, it’s a different song. Early in the year, individual whales experiment with their own new phrases and verses; and by fall, all the whales have somehow agreed on the specific details of that year’s long and complex tune. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Every year, humpbacks in the entire Pacific population, from Alaska to Mexico to Hawaii, sing the same song; and every year, it’s a different one. Early in the year, each whale experiments with its own new phrases and verses; and by fall, all the whales have somehow picked up the specific details of that year’s long and complex tune. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Whales are recovering on Canada’s North Pacific Coast, in the Great Bear Sea, but they still face an uncertain future. Increased noise from ships and the potential introduction of massive oil tankers into these waters pose genuine threats to their fragile status. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Whales are recovering in the Great Bear Sea, but they still face an uncertain future. Increased noise from ships and the potential introduction of massive oil tankers into these waters pose genuine threats to their fragile status. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Whales are recovering on Canada’s North Pacific Coast, in the Great Bear Sea, but they still face an uncertain future. Increased noise from ships and the potential introduction of massive oil tankers into these waters pose genuine threats to their fragile status. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Spotting a humpback whale’s flukes above the surface of the waters of the Great Bear Sea makes for  a hauntingly beautiful memory. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

British Columbia has more races of black bear than any other part of Canada, attributable to the arrival of bears that differentiated in isolation on Haida Gwaii during the last ice age. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Because of bears that differentiated in isolation on the Haida Gwaii archipelago during the last Ice Age, British Columbia has more races of black bears than any other part of Canada. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The spirit bear, also known as the kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), is thought to be a race of black bear with a single recessive gene that causes a white coat. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The spirit bear, also known as the kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), is thought to be a race of black bear with a single recessive gene that causes a white coat. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The Kitasoo Xaixais people, who have lived with spirit bears for thousands of years, say that Raven made one in every ten black bears white to remind the people of a time when glaciers covered the land and how thankful people should be for the lush and bountiful land of today. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The Kitasoo Xaixais people, who have lived with spirit bears for thousands of years, say that Raven made one in every 10 black bears white to remind the people of a time when glaciers covered the land and how thankful they should be for the lush and bountiful place of today. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Although slow-moving on land, Steller sea lions — a near-threatened species of sea lions in the northern Pacific, according to the IUCN —are graceful in water. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Although slow-moving on land, Steller sea lions — a near-threatened species in the northern Pacific, according to the IUCN —are graceful in water. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Two decades ago, almost every valley of the Great Bear Rainforest was slated for clear-cut logging. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Two decades ago, almost every valley of the Great Bear Rainforest was slated for clear-cut logging. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Currently, 50 percent of the natural level of old forest must be maintained. Forest and ecology science experts, however, say that the Great Beat Rainforest is not safe until 70 percent growth is safeguarded. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Currently, 50 percent of the natural level of old forest must be maintained. Forest and ecology science experts, however, say that the Great Beat Rainforest will not be safe until 70 percent is protected. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The Great Bear Rainforest is a wild stretch of western cedars, hemlocks, and spruce trees. In this virtually roadless area, travel is often by boat. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

The Great Bear Rainforest is a wild stretch of western cedars, hemlocks, and spruce trees. In this virtually roadless area, travel is often by boat. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

After 15 years of conflict and negotiation, environmental organizations, First Nations communities, forest companies, and governments came together to create a world-leading model of ecosystem management for the region. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

After 15 years of conflict and negotiation, environmental organizations, First Nations communities, lumber company representatives, and governments came together to create a world-leading model of ecosystem management for the region. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Hopefully, all interests can work together to secure the future of this extraordinary place so that we don’t lose it. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Hopefully, all interests can work together to secure the future of this extraordinary place so that we don’t lose it. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

 

20 Comments »

  1. Mylène Debonlier December 9, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Your pictures are beautiful!
    Thank’s to introduce this region which looks like so… magic.
    Are there measures in place, for the Spirit Bear (for example) does not become a showcase of tourism? (at the expense of its tranquility)
    -It’s just curiosity-

  2. Ceil Mena November 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    What an incredible place, will add to my “bucket list.”

  3. John A. Leone November 12, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Really Great Fotos. Thanks John !!

  4. John Spencer November 10, 2014 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Beautiful photo’s and an eye opening experience. The human race need to wake up to the situation and with people like you doing what you do hopefully that will happen soon. Keep it going, well done.

  5. Don Johnston November 9, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Candice
    I think writers like you (great photos too btw) need to help take a stand and publicize the continuation of the trophy grizzly hunt supported by the provincial government in British Columbia. Unless, we as photographers are cool with that idea. I know myself and many others are not and I will not be going to BC until this practice is ended.

  6. Steven Curtis November 8, 2014 at 5:38 am - Reply

    Again, good work Candice. Also loved your Argentina shots and story. The Great Bear Rainforest is a special place, but unfortunately, have yet to see it in person. Keep up the good work, I too am originally from Wisconsin (Madison) but have been living in Canada since the 70s.

    • Candice Gaukel Andrews November 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Steven. And, always good to hear from a fellow Wisconsinite — even if you now call Canada home! — C.G.A.

  7. Danelle Veldsman November 8, 2014 at 5:15 am - Reply

    Magical photos and a powerful message. Definitely convinced to add the Great Bear Rainforest on my bucket list. Beautiful… keep it protected!!!

  8. Bob Gettman November 8, 2014 at 5:08 am - Reply

    Wonderful photojournalism and commentary !! Thank you, Candice.

  9. Sinnadurai Sripadmanaban November 7, 2014 at 6:29 am - Reply

    Don’t destroy their food sources & habitat.

  10. Sharon Brocker November 7, 2014 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Preserve, protect, save!

  11. Brad Lett November 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    A stunning looking place, I hope to be able to get there one day….Keep it safe…..and closed to commercial interests!! 🙂

  12. Naomi Moriyama November 6, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Excellent presentation of the beauty of the great Bear Rain Forest and the wildlife that live there.

  13. Louise (elle) Seager (GENIE) November 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Wildlife photography at it’s very beast!

  14. Joan November 6, 2014 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Oh, this is an amazing and unique part of the planet, indeed! Our NatHab adventure in the Great Bear Rainforest holds a very, very special place in my heart. There’s natural beauty, incredible wildlife, and a profound history that permanently ties a receptive visitor to the place in no time. The word that comes most to mind is DEPTH, of both time and meaning.

    • Candice Gaukel Andrews November 8, 2014 at 5:23 am - Reply

      Beautifully put, Joan, and I totally agree with you. And, I do appreciate having the good fortune to have had you as a traveling companion on our adventure into the Great Bear Rainforest. —C.G.A.

  15. Martin Rogers November 6, 2014 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Beautiful photos Candy!

  16. Phillip Tureck - FRGS November 6, 2014 at 11:43 am - Reply

    What a wonderful and favourite subject for me to comment on.

    Having been myself last year to see the Great Bear Rainforest, the last temperate forest with so much going on that cold change the beauty and the wildlife.

    The threats are many but the splendour and scenery is incredible.

    My week was far too short in what is one of the world’s most vibrant, magical paradise.

    Support the forest – http://www.pacificwild.org tells you so much more.

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