As many parents will agree, youngsters have a way about growing up fast. One day, they are tiny; the next day they are taller than you. One day, they seem so new to the world; the next it seems like they run the world. The research crew had one of those observations this week in a watershed not far from the Raincoast bunkhouse.
About this time last year, we started viewing the images from a remote camera from one of our non-invasive hair-snagging stations. Our jaws nearly hit the floor as we saw a momma bear grizzly and her three lanky, second-year cubs. Though they only spent a few minutes at our site, genetic data confirm that all four left hair samples. And what fun they had investigating the camera and scent pile, playing with one another and momma!
We thought about this family a lot during this past winter. Did they all get enough salmon to make it through the winter sleep? Did the abundant snow make a cozy den for them to sleep away the dark nights? Would we see them again in the coming spring?
We would! And my – how they’ve grown! At the very same river we were treated to quite a show this past week. For a joyous hour we watched at a healthy distance as momma and her now rotund young grazed away on estuarine sedges. Heads bobbed up and down. The cubs flopped on the ground, scratched, and napped between feeding bouts.
Not wanting to disturb them we went on our way, our cameras filled with pictures and our hearts and minds with memories.
This experience has reminded us that although conservationists and scientists are often most interested in “populations”, we still form relationships with individuals: individual bears, individual watersheds, and individual moments. Some relationships are ephemeral. Some, like the one we’re building with this grizzly family, hold steadfast, even amidst an ever-changing, busy world.