May 4th, 2013
By Megan Adams
Raincoast and the UVic Applied Conservation Sciences (ACS) lab are excited to begin the first year of bear monitoring with the Wuikinuxv Nation. ACS student Megan Adams and Raincoast field technician Scott Rogers joined Wuikinuxv Guardian Watchmen Alex Chartrand Jr., Brian Johnson and Chris Corbett to form “the bear crew”, sampling bear hair from the back of Owikeno Lake to the outside of Rivers Inlet via jetboat, boat and helicopter.
This project is fortunate to be part of a larger community of researchers and nations that focus on bear research and stewardship. A wonderful way to begin our season was to come together with these other groups from neighbouring Nations. We were thankful to be invited to a gathering at a river which has been a place of coming together for a long time. It is relatively rare to get meet outside of board rooms and come together in a place we all love. Teams from Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Klemtu, Wuikinuxv and Vancouver gathered in the estuary of the powerful Kwatna River to witness and celebrate collaborations with each other, and also with a broader community of scholars and conservation organizations.
This dynamic and resilient group of local stewards clearly puts a lot of care, effort and passion into the work that they do not only their dedication to research and stewardship but also in their inclusiveness. Inspired by a beautiful setting, we camped together on the estuary feasting on fresh clams, salmon and greens with old friends, making new friends as well. How amazing it was to witness the bringing of presence to a place that has not had a strong presence for a long time.
Later the following week, we flew high into the mountain icefields of Wuikinuxv territory, looking for alpine areas to sample for bear hair. We are especially interested in sampling in mountainous corridors – places where bears transcend major watersheds to cross into new ones. Places like Elizabeth Lake, which connect to Koeye Lake . Or the Tzeo River, which connects the third narrows of Owikeno Lake to South Bentick Arm that was once home to a large Nuxalk village. Or finally, low alpine valleys like the one above Kwatna. A small lake along this corridor connects one side to a river that runs to the head of Moses Inlet in the heart of Wuikinuxv territory, and on the other, to the spectacular Kwatna watershed. As we flew above this spectacular corridor, looking down one side to the long inlet of Moses and the other side to the mountainous creek that would eventually flow to the Kwatna estuary, we were reminded of how connected this whole coastal area is. In a complementary way, the data we collect on bears illustrate the bear’s eye view on connectivity among watersheds, particularly those that host spawning salmon
Our team was very grateful to participate in this historic gathering of Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai-Xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv collaborators. Being witness was a gift. We feel with this inspiration and momentum at its onset, the Wuikinuxv project will cultivate connection to place with a spirit of collaboration.