There's something slightly impersonal about a rod and a reel after watching bears fish for salmon. Long claws, sharp teeth, and a quickness you would not assume from a bear slowly meandering their way up a river. The dance of predator and prey awakens something primal in us, oft dormant in those born to a city. The relationship between life and death; raw and integral in reminding us of the interconnectedness of all things.
Watching bears fish for salmon has shattered my delusion of independence. It has irrevocably awakened me to the interdependence I share with the planet, and especially with the plants and animals I rely on to nourish my body.
In this particular salmon river, there are bears with white fur and pink noses who fish for salmon in Gitga’at First Nation territory on the west coast of North America. I watched this bear, face scarred from a life lived in earnest, leap onto this fish. In a flurry of motion, the bear and the salmon both emerged from the river, one in the jaws of the other.
This white-coated subspecies of black bear is culturally significant to the Gitga’at people who have been in relationship with this land for thousands and thousands of years. A rare recessive gene gives the bears the white fur that sets them apart from their black-coated kin. So, at this same river, one could see a black bear with a white cub, or vice-versa.
There are only a few hundred white bears, or Spirit bears, walking about and catching fish, who exist in the world. It is an honour to be in the presence of any bear, and I count myself fortunate to be given an opportunity to spend an afternoon watching this Spirit bear fish for salmon.