Bear Trip: Behind the Scenes

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Last week I posted images of the Grizzly Bears of the Khutzeymateen Inlet. Here is a "behind the scenes look" at that crazy adventure. The idea for the trip started six months ago with a call from my friend David duChemin. All I remember from we call were the words "Grizzlies, sailboat, and zodiac" - he had me at "grizzlies".

Getting to the Inlet is anything but straightforward. A commercial flight into a fishing town, then a float plane ride over the wild and beautiful scenery that is the BC coast. After touching down in a remote valley, a Zodiac ferried us to a sailboat - which was to be our home base for the trip.

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The tiny Zodiac became our daytime home as we sought out bears along the shoreline. Our movements revolved around the high and low tides because we needed to get up in to the inlet and back before the waters receded. There were no close calls with bears, but a lot of tense moments as we skimmed along the shallow water. I consider it a minor miracle that we only broke one propeller!

It turns out that Tom Ellison, our zodiac pilot and bear guide, is the reason the sanctuary exists. Tom fell in love with the bears decades ago and worked with a small team of scientists and volunteers to survey the bear population around Khutzeymateen. If it weren't for their efforts this pristine valley would have been logged clean and a vital bear habitat lost forever. Now it's an 171 square mile haven for bears - and a photographer's dream.

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Photographing Grizzlies isn't all hard work. As the last tide started to go out each day we'd head back to the boat for dinner, image editing, and of course, a few glasses of 18 year old whiskey to keep us warm!

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