Hello from the Great Bear!

My name is Hannah and I am one of the new members of the Raincoast research team in Bella Bella this year.  Megan (the second newbie), Kyle, and I have been working hard alongside our Heiltsuk counterparts Howard, Harvey and Ian C. Reid for the past 3 weeks. We have traveled to all corners of our picturesque study area in Heiltsuk Territory to set up our sites and collect our samples all whilst bearing witness to the incredible beauty of this area.  Never having traveled to the central coast of BC before, I find myself snap-happy with my camera, and am sitting at close to 500 photos thus far. It’s been said many times and in many ways before but the Great Bear Rainforest truly is a poster child for natural beauty!

The opportunity to work with Raincoast and study bears up in Bella Bella came at a time of uncertainty.  I had just finished my undergrad degree in Geography and found myself face-to-face with the massive unknown of ‘what comes next?’.   I had just taken a class with Raincoast’s Science Director Dr. Chris Darimont at UVic and found myself inspired by his work and passion. Needless to say that when the opportunity to be a part of, and contribute to, the ongoing Salmon Carnivore Project came about I did not hesitate.  Not knowing what to expect, I hopped on the ferry with colleagues I barely knew, headed to an area I’d never been, to study bears,  a species I knew relatively little about.  Now, 3 weeks later I find myself among friends in an area that is becoming increasingly familiar while contributing to a research project I’ve become incredibly passionate about.  I even get to ride in a helicopter (a first for me)!

Kyle, Don and Hannah standing in the snow at one of our bear bait sites.

So far this year we have been working extra hard. The late spring left us with some particularly snowy sites (see photo). One site took us 2.5 hours to set up!  In addition to setting up our wire snags, we have had the pleasure of pumping our (non-reward) bait of fermented fish guts into jerry cans and portioning out beaver butt as an accompaniment. One day in the bait shed pumping “rotten fish milkshake” was enough to leave my nose haunted for days to come.  Painter’s suits provided choice attire for such an occasion and offered some comic relief to an otherwise stinky situation (see photo).  As a reward for all of this hard work, we’ve successfully obtained our sought after prize: bear hair! With a large stack of brown envelopes filled with hair and a few bear visitors caught on camera this season is shaping up to be a good one!



Hannah and Kyle dressed up for the bait shed which stores the smelly bear attractant (in background on an isolated float).

More to come,

Hannah Kobluk

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Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.