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'The bears have been starving': 500 salmon donated to feed emaciated grizzlies
Environmental stewards of the Knight Inlet area just north of Vancouver Island have begun feeding grizzly bears after growing concerned with alarming trends among the local population.
Jake Smith, Guardian Watchman Manager for the Mamalilikulla First Nation says guardians have noticed serious problems with grizzlies and their food supplies since June.
"We're really concerned about the bears. The bears have been starving because there's a lack of salmon return in Hoeya Sound and Lull Bay," said Smith.
Smith was with a group of volunteers who headed into the region on Sunday with 500 pink salmon that had been donated by the A-Tlegay Fisheries Society through the Quinsam River Salmon Hatchery in an effort to feed the bears.
The salmon were distributed along the shorelines where grizzlies have been known to frequent.
Chief Kwakwabalas, Ernest Alfred from Swanson Island Fish Farm Occupation, says he was conflicted over the action, believing that nature should take its course. But, he also felt something needed to be done.
"We've had reports about starving grizzly bears in our territory for a number of years so this to me would be a very extreme measure taken to try to help our ecosystem," said Alfred.
Smith says the bears are getting hungry and aggressive and are starting to move to other areas in the Central Coast of the province and Vancouver Island in order to find food.
Volunteers were able to observe an emaciated mother and one of her cubs feeding on salmon that had been left for them and believe the effort may have to be repeated.
"I'm going to be bringing more up another week or a couple of days from now maybe," said Smith. "I'll probably make a few trips, actually."
Last week, North Island residents and wildlife observers expressed concerns about the worsening conditions of grizzly bears in the Broughton Archipelago.
Vancouver Island wildlife photographer Rolf Hicker posted photos of emicated grizzly bear sows and their cubs to illustrate his point.
"I know of a few bears which, in my humble opinion, have got absolutely no chance to survive the winter — if they even make it to the winter," Hicker told CTV News on Sunday.
"I'm not here to point fingers. I'm here to show you reality. These are facts. The pictures I took are from a couple of weeks ago. It's the Knight Inlet. We can't wait another three years or four years. Now is a dire situation."