• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Encountering Black Bear

Air Date: Week of

During the salmon run, writer Mark Seth Lender kayaked to the mouth of a river in British Columbia. As he watched, a female black bear and her cub stepped out upon a nearby promontory, her eyes on the fish in the river. Later a massive male appeared, and they made way for him. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

During the salmon run, writer Mark Seth Lender kayaked along a river in British Columbia. As he watched, a large black bear stepped out upon a nearby promontory, his eyes on the fish in the river. A mother and baby bear, also hungry for salmon, make way for the massive male.


CURWOOD: Well, once the salmon start running up the rivers of the west, it’s not only fishermen that look to a bountiful harvest – bears do too. But as Mark Seth Lender observed at British Columbia’s McKenzie River, a plentiful supply of salmon doesn’t make bears less watchful and cautious.

Black Bear at the McKenzie River, Broughton Archipelago
© 2015 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

Here is the daybed he made; the reeds flat as a sheet for the space of 10 feet. He’s just the right size to lie in it. That head, the shoulders it slouches into, front legs like two angular granite monuments, black hair thick as a shag rug and the edges silver, shimmering. He came up the beach at a shambling pace, over mussels and hard white barnacles clinging to the rocks like glass-embedded crenellations. He crossed the estuary at the shallows, downstream from where the river pours out of the heavy woods. Then up the bank. And paused. Looking left, looking right, and along the grassy knoll and down to the promontory where he now stands. Staring. At me. Eyebrows raised in a kind of question mark. Eyes open wider than they should be. Chin lifted, a little. An expression you might take for surprise. It isn’t.

A large black bear approaches the river and pays an uncomfortable amount of attention on writer Mark Seth Lender. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Yesterday another smaller bear black as a lump of coal, was fishing for salmon, right there; paw raised, leaning way out, all his attention on the river and the motion below – until he realized he was not alone. Hungry as he may have been, he ran. Suddenly. That’s what they do. Small Bear from Big Bear. All bears from us.

Big Bear? He missed that part in Bear School…

And I am glad of the hundred meters of glass-green water between us. He kneads his claws in the sand, and never takes his eyes off me.

An salmon spawns in BC's Mackenzie River, then flops on the gravel streambed--her final resting place. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

On the rocks at my right hand, a salmon writhes. We tried to launch her again, upstream to meet her Fate. She did not have it in her. When Big Bear sees her there Fate will come to her.

Better her…

In the morning we kayak around the corner and along the promontory one last time. It rained last night and the river pushes against the flooding tide with a roar. There are tracks all over the flats. Momma Bear, her prints no bigger than the ones I might make walking on my hands. Baby Bear; here’s where he came to a stop feet planted side by side, and Momma Bear right behind him. And there, just ahead, that’s where Big Bear went. And Momma and Baby again, their paws bunched together in a clump which means they turned and left here at a run.

All these traces will wash out on the dark of the new moon tide. And of the stranded salmon? Not so much as a single, iridescent, scale.

Where momma and baby bear stopped, turned and ran. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)



Writer Mark Seth Lender

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in the Broughton Archipelago

More on the Broughton Archipelago Provincial Park


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth