Further to our last blog post, we have more exciting photos to share from Chris' journey in Klemtu, British Columbia.
The totems pictured above are located inside the Big House of the Kitasoo/Xai'xais Nation. The two tribes live together in the village of Klemtu on Swindle Island. The Big House is a cultural center for the village.
In this lush rainforest area, salmon streams provide food for magnificent creatures such as orcas (killer whales), eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare Spirit bear. From the smallest bird, to the eagle, bear and the largest tree in the temperate rainforest the nutrients from the salmon run fuels this system. Pictured to the left, Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) are not the biggest of the Pacific salmon species but often come into the creeks in huge numbers. Unfortunately, their numbers are at historic lows in many of the creeks.
Pictured above are salmon eggs in different stages of development. A fraction, should they survive, are the future generation of fish that fuel this incredible ecosystem.
An hour's boat ride from the Spirit Bear Lodge where Chris stayed, Chris' group encountered three Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) sows with cubs. At this time of the year these bears are on a salvage mission, feeding on the carcasses of the salmon who have spawned and died.
Above, a Kermode black bear stares intensely into the crystal clear waters of the creek, waiting for the right moment to pounce on a salmon.
Above, a bear feeds on a pink salmon. During the peak of the run the bears often feed on the brain and eggs of the fish, leaving the rest behind to feed other creatures or fertilize the forest.
The Pacific Northwest is full of surprises and the intertidal zone offers much diversity. Purple Ochre Sea Stars (Pisaster ochraceus) abound in this area. Despite the difference in coloration, the sea stars above are the same species.
Although Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are certainly capable of catching their own fish in this part of the world, it is much easier for them to feed on the leftovers from the fishing wolves and bears. The wolves seem to feed mostly on the brain of the salmon. It is believed that in addition to gleaning a high fat content, this feeding behavior helps the wolves to avoid tapeworms and other parasites.
The site of a Humpback whale's (Megaptera novaeangliaetail) tail fluke signifies a deep dive, often to locate their prey, usually herring or krill. Many of these whales make the long journey from the warmer waters of Hawaii, about 80 days, where they breed and have their calves, to the nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Northwest to feed. The markings on the tail help scientists to identify individual whales.
From a perch atop the roof of the boat, Chris could clearly see the ring of bubbles (pictured above) as the whales create their "bubble net."
As the circle closed, larger bubbles rose through the center, and the two whales pierced the surface with giant mouths agape to feed on the small herring that appeared.
These amazing photos, and more, are some of the many exciting elements of Chris' trip which will be shared in Animal Embassy school and library programming upon his return!