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The faint odor was tantalizing but there was also danger, I sensed that….. I ushered my 2 precious cubs into the bush to wait while I investigated further, the aroma now very strong and delicious smelling, having 2 cubs to feed is hard work and this place is surrounded by the two footed animal, disturbing my every move and interrupting my wild life.  I approached the overpowering scent and cautiously approached the danger smell too, I need to eat, I am opportunist, this smelt like a feast which means rich milk for my cubs, I stepped inside the odd contraption to taste the offering, my instinct to survive and feed my offspring overriding the obvious signs of danger – CRASH, a loud bang and I turned to run back to my cubs…. I could not, this contraption was now enclosed, I am in a blind rage, my cubs in the distance with no way of me reaching them, it is dark, I am trapped.   I am exhausted and full of fear but so much fight still within me when the 2 legged ones appear, the scent of man overpowering and scary, my cubs, where are my cubs

A distant noise shakes me from my desperate fight, its my cubs, their voices calling out to me, my big strong heart is pounding in my chest, the danger is growing I sense it, the 2 legged ones are nearby, muffled sounds and a strong smell of man compounds my fears, my life is my cubs, I must protect them, suddenly its very quiet, the blackness of my prison and silence overwhelming, I will not give up, I continue to fight with all my strength, power and courage when a light appears, shadows moving around and then a horrific smell, a smell of death….. BANG a very loud noise and a searing pain, I see red, the noise of my heart loudly thumping fills my head, the pain now extending through my body, I am slipping, the darkness is coming, my heart thumps hard one last time and then nothing……. where are my cubs, where are my cubs………

In Memory of Blaze

RIP Blaze, Photo courtesy of Sandy Sisti

Littlefoots story starts off after his mother was unfortunately shot in Fall of 2013, how he survived the winter alone is amazing but he did, during the spring the public had informed Conservation Officers (CO) of a young grizzly cub hanging around near to the Fernie Ski Hill, he was looking a bit worse for wear, the reason for this was that he was without his mom and at just approx 17 months of age he should still be with her as grizzly cubs stay with their moms until at least 3 years of age, something had to be done as his survival was in jeopardy.  The CO set up a trap for the bear cub and caught him, they made the decision to give him a chance at life and called Angelika at Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers to arrange for his collection, rehabilitation and future release.  I was lucky enough to go along on this pick up and travelled to Fernie with Angelika and her wonderful husband Peter.  This may sound simple enough but you have to take into account that Smithers is over 17 hours of travel time from Fernie.

Once we arrived we met up with the CO’s and were introduced to Littlefoot, he was very scrawny weighing only 49lbs but had such a will to survive, feisty and strong, we transferred him from the trap into the travel crate to set off on his long journey back to Smithers, he popped his little claws through a hole in the crate during the journey, hence the name Littlefoot. Angelika and Peter commenced the huge road trip back to their rehabilitation centre, of course making sure this little grizzly was fed and watered along the way, Littlefoot was to stay for around 3 months to fatten up, gain muscle strength and become strong enough for release in August.   This was the first yearling grizzly that was rehabilitated at the facility as part of the grizzly rehab programme. The August release day dawned beautifully as we headed down to Cranbrook with Littlefoot in tow, now a healthy 144lbs, we secured him for the night and got some rest before an early start and his release the next day.  I tried to sleep but excitement kept me awake.

The next day dawned very grey with pouring rain not that it deterred us at all, we had a grizzly cub to release back into the wild.

We collected Littlefoot and met up with the CO’s to drive out to the release location, Littlefoot was eager to exit the trap he had been in for long while.  Once we reached the beautiful release site, everything was set in place for him to run free…. and he did just that he jumped out of the trap looked around, then this look of complete wonderment came over his face, he realized there were no fences anymore, he made his way over to a grassy spot and straight away started to dig, wonderful natural bear behaviour, as his realization grew that he was indeed free to roam, he moved quicker, digging at logs for grubs, scratching the earth, rubbing on trees, he ran up the hillside looking back only briefly, more digging then off into the distance, watching that little bears pure joy was truly heartwarming, a moment in time I will never ever forget.

Freedom

Freedom for Littlefoot after his Mammoth Journey

Testing out his new surroundings

Testing out his new surroundings

Strength of a grizzly

Strength of a grizzly, pulling log over

He disappeared momentarily into the treeline but then reappeared near a huge rock and some berry bushes, he proceeded to climb up onto the rock and reach out with his paw for the berries on the branch….. like the king of the world on top of that rock, that image of him will always remain with me. As Angelika wisely said “We have given him the best chance we can at life, its up to him now” and I believe he will grow big and strong and Littlefoot will indeed grow into a bigfoot !

King of the wilderness

King of the wilderness reaching for berries

4 Cub Rescue

The 4th September 2014 was a day of heartache, excitement, stress and a total appreciation of what wildlife rescuers and rehabbers have to go through.  The day started off normally until I received a phone call, I was told that there had been an incident with a female black bear on the Highway near to my home and that unfortunately she had lost her life….. but there were 4 cubs (YES 4!!) grieving over her body at the side of the road !!  OK, so I spring into action and the first thing, of course, that I do is call Angelika at Northern Lights Wildlife Society and then the RAPP line to check if the incident had been reported to the conservation officers, it had and I now had a location, I jumped into my car and got out to the site of the accident, the female bears body was nowhere to be seen but a small black bear cub was running back and forth on the very busy highway, there was no one else around, which actually surprised me, I thought someone might be watching out for these little cubs.   I managed to chase the cub to a nearby tree and up into it and this is what I saw

4 BB Cubs

4 BB Cubs

I scrambled up the very steep bank to the base of the tree to make sure these cubs did not come down onto the busy highway.  My view from the base of the tree.

4cr3

After speaking to Angelika I was informed that the body of the female had been removed and the Conservation Officer was 2 hours away!!  OK, how do you keep 4 black bears up a tree for 2 hours until help arrives?  Basically every time 1 of the bears tried to climb down I had to use a stick to make some noise on the trunk of the tree to keep them from coming down, now this sounds easy right?  Not so easy when the bears decide to go the bathroom on your head, poop and pee !  but that did not concern me at the time, my concern was to keep these babies safe.  Spending this time alone with them I determined that there was most definitely some different personalities, one of the bears (which later I discovered was female) was crying incessantly for her mother, hearing those plaintive cries broke my heart and I tried with my human voice to soothe their pain, I know they do not understand me but the tone of my voice seemed to help a little, here she is.

Scared

Scared

Another of the little cubs was snoozing on some branches, obviously exhausted by the trauma of the situation (I later discovered he was a male) here he is.

Snoozy

Snoozy

The other 2 bears (females) were way up high in the branches and were afraid but safe.  After about 1 and a half hours my wonderful husband arrived with transport crates and helped me keep these little ones in the tree.  So, picture this…. the tree is about 50ft high positioned on a very steep bank above the highway…. these pictures sort of give you the idea.

4cr11

4cr10

4cr9

The pictures show the last cub to be rescued and just how high she was, the wonderful Conservation Officer, Greg is at the bottom of the tree with the sedation gun.

Greg the CO arrived and we got to work, quickly assessing the situation and what was the best course of action, of course to sedate the bears in the tree would mean they may fall so we had a tarp ready to catch them.  Greg sedated the first cub quite easily but the little one was positioned across branches so fell asleep and did not fall, Greg proceeded to climb up a ladder and then into the tree to attach a hoist to her and then lowered her down to me, I gave her a good check over, healthy female, checked her eyes, gums and then we removed the sedation dart, I placed her in the crate to come round peacefully from sedation.  The second cub was a little higher and again after the sedation he remained in the tree across some branches, this time my husband, Marlon, climbed the ladder and tree to attach a hoist and lower the little boy down to me, this little guy was most definitely smaller then his sibling, he was tiny, again I checked  him over, the dart was removed and he was placed in the crate with his sister.

The next 2 bears proved to be more of a problem as they were WAY up in the tree and unfortunately the 3rd cub fell very hard after sedation and ended up down the bank, a combination of the entry wound of the sedation dart and the long fall ended her short life, I held her in my arms and placed her gently on the ground as she slipped away, I said sorry to her and I have to admit that was one of the hardest moments I have ever experienced, to try and keep focussed whilst choked up over this little girl cub was horrendous, but we had another cub to save so back to business.  A very amazing, strong, dedicated lady, Angelika Langen, talked to me during this time and I am always humbled by her professionalism and common sense.  

Paws for thought

Paws for thought

It took a few tries to get the last cub down from the tree as she was nearly at the top, we arranged a sewn together tarp around the base of the tree to break her fall and with the help of some AMAZING local volunteers we were ready, once the sedation took effect her fall was quick and broken by some branches but she landed safely in the tarp – AMAZING TEAMWORK.  Again I checked her over, we removed the dart and put her into another crate ready for transportation.  I had arrived at the scene at 12:30 it was now nearly 6:30 and time was of the essence to get these little ones to NLWS.  Arriving home we packed a bag, got lots of fruit and water for the cubs on their journey and headed off to Kamloops to catch the truck to Smithers by 10pm.  We stopped a few times on the way to check the cubs who were becoming more feisty and hungry as the journey progressed, seeing them start being strong little bear cubs again after being asleep was just heart warming.  We arrived in Kamloops just in time for the truck to load them up for their journey to Smithers.

As I sit and write this the emotion is still very raw and raises lots of questions in my mind about how we treat our wildlife, the main one being why were the cubs just left unattended on a busy highway?   My mission is to make sure we can rescue any bears interrupted and give them a second chance and I will do this again in a heartbeat, every single day if need be.   I volunteer for NLWS because of their high standards, total dedication and never ending compassion, I am proud to be a part of their team and will continue to support and help them for the rest of my days.  Look at this precious little one…  how can we not want to give them a fighting chance?

Precious

Precious

Black Bear Cub Rescue

Bear cubs have a distinctive smell, one I will never forget and Monday 19th May is a day I will never forget either.  A message came in from Angelika from Northern Lights Wildlife Society asking me what plans I had for Monday, of course everything gets put on hold when there is a possible bear rescue in the making.  I was told that 2 cubs of the year had been found without their mom in Cranbrook and that a wonderful lady had them in her care but we needed to get them to Smithers as soon as possible, we do not know what happened to the sow but she had apparently been dead for a couple of days.  Preparations started to take shape and the transport got underway.  The cubs arrived at my house at 11:30am and we made sure that they ate some formula, they were very weak, especially the female, but luckily they both ate and I am just amazed at the will to survive of these precious little cubs, we transferred them to my straw filled crate and got ready for the 4 hour trip to Jasper where I was to meet Angelika and Peter from NLWS.

Image

Along the way through beautiful Banff and Jasper National Parks, I stopped to check the little ones regularly, they were sleepy, but still hanging in there, their little tiny paws and faces melt my heart and the look in their eyes was one of wariness but also curiosity, innocence and intelligence  We made it to Jasper and met up with Angelika for the handover, whilst we were waiting a little, the cubs were playing with each other, a good sign as they are so malnourished.  Mixed emotions ensued as I was so happy that the cubs made it this far but sad that this had to happen in the first place, spending time with these little ones is something I will never forget and that smell I talked about, well cubs smell like the wilderness to me a sweet scent of hope and newness and it is beautiful.

Image

 

Bears Interrupted

The reason for me starting to write this blog was because of the profound effect a certain 700lb grizzly bear had on me whilst working with him in 2011. Boo’s story is a tragic one and when I visit him there is still a deep sadness in his eyes, his life was truly interrupted.

Beautiful Boo

Beautiful Boo

More recently there was Clover the Kermode Bear who through no fault of his own now resides in a zoo.   After he was successfully rehabilitated and released, humans caused his life to change direction and now his future is behind bars and then there is the very sad story of Terry and Blair the two orphaned grizzlies that became a little too confident around humans and of course this lead to their demise in the form of euthanization by the Conservation Service.

Precious Clover

Precious Clover

3 grizzlies

Tika, Terry and Blair

On Friday 11th October 2013, a day that will haunt me forever, I had taken an early morning walk along the beautiful Columbia River here, I followed the footprints of the bear that frequents the area and as always felt at complete peace in my surroundings, that was about to change.

Walking Alongside the Bears

Walking Alongside the Bears

I received a message from a friend who works for Parks Canada that asked me about Tika’s ear tag numbers and collar….. my heart jumped then proceeded to sink…. what did that mean?  Her message was shortly followed by another message from Angelika Langen from Northern Lights Wildlife Society telling me that unfortunately Tika had been hit by a vehicle on Hwy 93 in Kootenay National Park and was killed, he had been eating a carcass of a ungulate and there was dense fog in the area at the time of the incident.    Words alone cannot describe the emotion that hit me like a semi truck driving too fast on a Highway, I was in total shock and could not comprehend what I had heard.  This beautiful little boy bear who fought to survive when the odds were stacked against him, went forth into the wilderness on his day of release with a smile on his grizzly little face, excitement in his step and so much hope……. his end is a tragedy of the worst kind.

Again another BEAR INTERRUPTED.

Things need to change to allow these bears at least a slight chance to survive and stay wild and we as homo sapiens HAVE TO help with this, we need to learn to co-exist with bears.  Grizzlies like Terry, Blair and Tika need to be released into an environment which allows them the freedom to roam the distances they need to, to survive without human fragmentation and interference.  I am not a scientist but I do know that the rehabilitated grizzlies are always released back into their home ranges because of genetics, I ask the question now, is this truly necessary?  The grizzly is a species of concern and surely when a grizzly is rehabilitated and released it should be taken into an area where they are protected and can grow into adults, a prime example of a perfect location is the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Refuge on the North West Coast of BC.   This years tragedies are just more proof that habitat fragmentation is detrimental to the Grizzly Bear.

The other BIG issue is our Highways and Railtracks.  Things are improving a little with the animal overpasses, underpasses and fencing but still so many creatures lose their lives because of humans in such a hurry to get somewhere, we need signs and more penalties for those who do not respect the sensitive environment they travel through and the animals that reside therein.  I am now in the process of writing letters and and telling Tika’s story to highlight the issues, his death will not be in vain, I will do everything I can to make a difference.

Along with all these obstacles they still allow a trophy hunt…… SERIOUSLY something is very VERY wrong.  If we lose the grizzly bear our precious eco systems will be compromised and ultimately the planet will pay the biggest price.

This is the last picture I took of Tika on his release day, I still cannot believe he has gone…..and I will forever feel him in the breeze.

ALWAYS in my Heart Tika

ALWAYS in my Heart Tika

Tika’s Release

When I sat down to write this blog post my heart was still bursting from the experience I had just had, the words just would not come out, its hard to describe something so amazingly wonderful…. anyways after a coffee and a cookie, here goes.

Just before Christmas 2012 Tika was rescued from Golden and taken to Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers where he began the long road to recovery up to his eventual release.  Tika was severely weak and could not even stand, however with the loving care of Angelika and Peter Langen he started to make a slow and thankful recovery.

Tika December 2012

Tika December 2012

On Saturday 6th July 2013 Angelika and Peter started their journey to bring Tika back home to Golden for his release, a journey that would take 2 days and included a traffic jam in 30c heat.  I was in constant contact with them on this journey and the stress they were going through was tremendous, especially when they were stuck in a queue because of a road traffic accident.  Eventually, exhausted and of course worried about Tika’s wellbeing they arrived in Golden where I met up with them to help take him to a private holding area for the evening, a cool spot, of course, where he was given a good meal, lots of water and settled for the night.  As you can imagine the little bear was not happy being in the transport trap, but freedom would soon be his.

Monday morning started off with torrential rain, which was a refreshing change from the 30c heat the day before, but we also hoped it would clear off a little for the release.  After contacting the local Conservation Officer and arranging to meet him to escort us out to the release location we picked Tika up and set off on our way.  The rain continued as we headed towards our location.  When we arrived at the perfect spot we set up the trap in the correct direction for release and opened the door on the back of it, the rain had stopped……

Door open.....

Door open…..

No movement, nothing….. Tika had moved himself right to the front of the trap, it took him a couple of minutes to actually make that first move to freedom and instead of hurrying out and running off, he stepped out of the container and took some time to look around

and he is out....

and he is out….

He wanted to check it all out, sniff the air and then he proceeded to take a couple of mouthfuls of fresh greens, moving off into the bush, he scented lots, sniffing and opening his mouth, his expression changed from one of wariness to, what to me, looked like bliss, all of a sudden he realized he was free, he took mouthfuls of natural forage then decided to dig at some rocks, all full of excitement in his new environment, he rubbed himself on a little tree, still scenting and checking everything out, then he turned back towards us and you could see his smile…..

First steps to freedom

First steps to freedom

which way now....

which way now….

fresh greens

fresh greens

I think I like this

I think I like this

Scenting his new surroundings

Scenting his new surroundings

More scenting

More scenting

tree rub

tree rub

The emotions running through me watching that little bear suddenly became totally aware that he was free are un-describable, my tears started, tears of joy, extreme happiness and Angelika and I hugged, she has done this many times but as she told me “you cannot explain to anyone what it is like to witness this first hand, you have to be here to feel it”  WOW, I have never felt anything like that before and even writing this brings those floods of emotions back to me – Tika continued to mooch around some more taking it all in and then started to wander off further, the last I saw of that little bear was his beautiful furry butt as he headed off to start his new life, he stole my heart completely.

yes I am home

yes I am home

time for me to make my way

time for me to make my way

lastlook

Last look

Tika has a GPS collar on and he also has ear tags and lip tattoo, the collar will send back signals of his movements which will be tracked at NLWS via google earth, this is all part of the Grizzly Rehabilitation Program that NLWS are running which you can read all about here PROJECT

As we drove away from the release site we stopped briefly to take in the beautiful new surroundings that Tika would roam, a stunning area in which we hope he will grow big, live long and just be a bear for a long time.

Angelika then, after the long journey, and the long day for release put on a wonderful presentation of the work that NLWS are doing  to a group of local folks from Golden.  She is truly an inspiration to me.

NLWS rely on donations to keep doing this AMAZING work they do, please think about making a donation today, every little helps, you can donate HERE

Live long, healthy and happy Tika bear you are in my heart for ever more

tNLWS

Smile Overload….

I have always been at one with nature and animals, from a small age everything outdoors fascinated me and still does today.  Setting off at 4:45am from home this morning, I felt like a child again, the anticipation of the day ahead exciting, my journey in the early dawn started quietly, not a lot of humans around at that time of day, perfect.  As you can guess I am always on the look out to photograph the beauty of this place and those creatures that inhabit it, its where I call home.   Straight away I was presented with, of all things, a huge dark coloured grizzly bear… eating dandies near to the road, I observed this bear (known as Bear 134 in Banff National Park) for a while, he sure was enjoying the fresh yellow flowers, as always I kept my distance and was perfectly quiet in my vehicle.  It worried me somewhat that he was close to the road but then he proceeded to climb the bank slightly, here are 2 pictures of him, such a beautiful boy.

griz134

Delicious Dandies

bear134

Up the bank

OK so now I am smiling LARGE…. as I continue on my travels, in fact just being out there and seeing him surviving was more than enough.  As always during the early hours, wildlife tends to forage near or along the highway, this beautiful female elk and her calf crossing the road in front of me and down into a nice meadow was a delight, the young one still had the last remnants of its spots.  Again I totally respected this new mom with her baby and continued to observe them from a distance and the little one ran in circles in the meadow, full of joy, life and spirit.

Elk

Elk

As the sun was slowly rising and the dawn turned into daylight I headed East and then towards Jasper along the Icefields Parkway, always a spectacular journey and today was no exception.  Just a little ways into the parkway, I spotted something again along the roadside, something I had not seen before ….. a large porcupine was making his way into the bush, such a funny little chap, I watched in amazement and managed from a distance to get a little picture of him, remember I have a zoom lens on my camera so I try never to disturb these animals and stress them out.

Awesome Porcupine

Awesome Porcupine

Just a little further along I stopped to take a little walk up to Peyto Lake, one of the most famous Lakes in Banff National Park, this lake never disappoints and even at 6:50am it was spectacular, walking through the forest up to the viewpoint was purely wonderful, no other humans around, so perfectly quiet apart from the delightful noises of nature including a little red squirrel who was intent at telling me a fine tale.

Peyto

Peyto

Little squidger

Little squidger

Those of you who like to take a morning stroll (like myself), meet another who likes to take in the beauty of the morning, this beautiful black bear just strolled along the highway in front of me, I kept my distance of course and luckily no more traffic was around, he/she eventually crossed over down a little pathway and then up into the forest, again if I smiled anymore I would look insane, getting out of bed at 4:30 certainly was paying off big time 🙂

Bear foot stroll

Bear foot stroll

Those of you who have visited the Icefields Parkway will know the overwhelming beauty of it, the glaciers, the landscapes, pure wilderness and such a feeling of freedom being out there, I stopped off often to just breathe and take it all in, it certainly refreshes the soul.   Normally when I look at clouds I see animals or faces and today I could see faces in the snow check these out….. the first one I saw a face in the middle and the second one just to the right hand side I was convinced it was a skull ….. I guess my imagination was on overdrive today 😉

Face in the middle

Face in the middle

Skull Mountain

Skull Mountain

Not only are there amazing mountains, snow formations and landscapes the waterfalls (everywhere) are worth stopping by and taking in their power, I am humbled by this whole environment.

waterfall1

Between the trees

Between the trees

Now Jasper is a 4 hour drive from Golden, my intention on setting out was not to actually go all the way to Jasper , however, I was having so much fun I carried on and entered the human world at the Jasper town site,  very briefly!   Jasper is a very touristy town and was busy, so I departed quickly.   The way home proved to be one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, but before I get there, the Icefields most certainly need a mention, the Athabasca Glacier has been receding rapidly and is a huge tourist attraction due to be expanded to include a walkway.. !!  You can imagine my view on that subject!

Icefields

Icefields

Athabasca

Athabasca

Glacier

Glacier

I do know that Parks are working towards helping the declining Caribou herds, this link provides the information on what they are working on CARIBOU

Caribou sign

Caribou sign

So as I mentioned earlier just when I thought things could not get any better my heart jumped into my throat when I spotted a parks vehicle and a couple more vehicles parked on the hard shoulder, I glanced around and there she was, the most beautiful mama grizzly bear with her 2 fuzzy wuzzy golden cubs….. I was at first cautious on my approach, the grizzlies were quite a distance away but I did not want to add to the stress from the growing crowd, the parks warden came and spoke to me and told me all about her and said it was okay to enjoy and photograph from this safe distance, again thankful for my zoom lens, and yes I took LOTS of pictures but also just observed this BEAUTIFUL family chowing down on grass, trying to stop myself shaking with delight was a challenge but I managed to get quite a few nice shots, which to me are the essence of the wilderness, their will to survive and just BE hit me and the emotion overload started, after photographing and observing, I reluctantly left the area, as I drove the tears of joy started which necessitated me pulling over!!  I was overwhelmed, the whole day was spectacular and I am SO very thankful that I have the opportunity to experience this and hope that through this blog and my pictures you get a little of that experience too.  The waiting is over (for those of you who did not scroll directly to the bottom……) here they are XX

Glorious

Glorious

Wonderful

Wonderful

Family

Family

Keeping watch

Keeping watch

Show me Mama

Show me Mama

Strolling and Eating

Strolling and Eating

Thank you for joining me on my journey