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Having completely fallen in love with the place, my time in Bella Coola was drawing to a close. I got up early on my last morning and walked a short distance from the lodge to a nearby picnic spot overlooking a stretch of the Atnarko river where I had observed an adult Grizzly Bear sow fishing on a number of previous occasions. She was nowhere to be seen this time however, but I spotted a local bear biologist I had a met at the same spot a few days previously. He was hunched behind a camera tripod in some tall rushes at the river's edge, with his back turned to the water, peering intently into a wooded area on top of an elevated dyke. I made my way slowly and quietly to where he was standing, and when I got within 10 metres of him I spotted what had caught his attention - the same sow I had seen before, but this time with her 2 cubs who must have remained concealed beyond the tree line on the previous occasions I had seen her fishing in the river. One cub was fairly active and was snacking on a large salmon the sow had dragged from the river, while the other slept in the background. I couldn't believe my good fortune to be presented with such a guilt edged photo op.

I was able to observe the tender interaction between mother and cubs for at least 30 minutes, from no more than 30 metres away. The bears seemed very relaxed, presumably resting up after a busy morning of gorging themselves on the Chinook & Pink Salmon spawning in the river.

The active cub was wide awake and seemed intermittently aware of our presence, occasionally sniffing the air, and looking directly at me (grizzlies have fairly poor eyesight), but didn't seem to be perturbed in the slightest. The sow seemed either oblivious or unconcerned and there seemed to be no suggestion of them beating a hasty retreat.

Eventually the sow decided to move on and she and the first cub slowly wandered off into the undergrowth, leaving the second cub sleeping in a reclining position in the sun. They hadn't gone far when it awoke with a start and hurried after them. It had been an incredible encounter, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to unhurriedly observe and photograph the natural behaviour of a female Grizzly Bear and her cubs. I must have packed a horseshoe in my camera bag that day.


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