Background Information: Humpacks, Grizzlies and More!
Nutrient rich water from the deep, cold Pacific is funnelled into the gentler waters of Dixon Entrance and the inlets of the North Coast. Humpback whales and sea birds congregate along the coastline to feed on small fish and krill. Also in late summer salmon return to the region to spawn and attract grizzly and black bears, sea lions, wolves, and orcas.
Humpback Whales are quite abundant in the nutrient rich waters around the North Coast. Humpback whales are baleen whales that seasonally feed on tiny crustaceans, plankton and small fish. They are gulpers and therefore look for concentrated masses of prey which they can gulp in huge mouthfuls. On average a humpback whale will eat between 4000-5000 pounds of plankton, krill and small schooling fish each day in the cold waters of the north Pacific. Pacific humpbacks migrate south in the winter to give birth in the warm waters of Mexico and Hawaii.
Humpback Whales are well known for breaching and their complex songs. The name humpback whale describes the motion it makes as it arches its back out of the water then shows off its magnificent tail flukes in preparation for a dive.
Humpback Whales grow to an adult size of 17 m and weigh 40,000 kg. They can live for 45-50 years. They typically live alone or in transient small groups which come together for cooperative feeding. When the waters are super rich in nutrients many humpbacks can be seen together.
Our North Coast Explorer trip gives a small number of visitors the unique privilege of observing humpbacks and other species of aquatic mammals and marine birds over a number of days while staying on our floating base-camp Afterglow I. There’s no better, or more comfortable, way to observe and photograph these spectacular animals!
Grizzly (or brown) bears are North America’s largest terrestrial carnivore. Size and weight vary considerably with region, but the largest bears are typically found in coastal areas. The grizzly bear gets its name from the light tipped guard hairs which give them a grizzled appearance. In the fall grizzlies emerge from the forest and focus on eating spawning salmon in the creeks and rivers. They can also be seen foraging in the intertidal zone for clams and shore crabs. Coastal grizzly bears are powerful swimmers and in their estuary home are in and out of the water almost constantly. They can often be seen snorkelling with just their heads below the water.
On the coast grizzly bears enter their dens to hibernate in late October/early November, and cubs are born in the dens in the deep of winter. Typically the bears emerge from the dens in early spring. Female grizzlies on the coast have between 1 and 3 cubs.
Grizzly bears have a great sense of smell and phenomenal hearing. Contrary to folklore, grizzlies can also see very well and their vision is comparable to humans. They use their powerful senses to locate food and to detect danger.
We find that the best time period for viewing grizzlies in the Khutzeymateen is from mid-May through to mid-June and then again mid August. During this time the bears are normally present in relatively large numbers and exhibit (and share with us) an amazingly wide array of behaviours, fishing, dominance struggles between young males and their older counterparts, mother-cub interactions, and more.
Travelling to the beautiful Khutzeymateen Valley and sharing a few days with the grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen is a unique and unforgettable experience that you will cherish forever.