Nearing the end of a long day in the field, we decide to stop for a late lunch. Shelby, one of the extraordinary field interns from Bella Bella, suggests we stop by a nearby beach with a rope-swing attached to a tree: a perfect spot for a quick swim as well. We anchor our mighty field boat, Kwahnesum, and hustle onto the beach eagerly thinking of our granola bars and fruit. We take turns swinging on the rope-swing, and as I float in the water, I spot something moving in the corner of my eye.
Down the beach is a cinnamon-coloured black bear also enjoying his lunch. Every now and then he would look up from his mouthful of sedge and glance over at us, listening to our laughter and splashing, then look back down in search of his next bite. As we sit watching him while eating our lunch, I think of human-wildlife encounters in other parts of the world. Would a bear be able to quietly eat his lunch on a beach in Vancouver, without being thought of as a threat by humans? Or even in a backyard? Can we learn to think of wildlife differently, not as the “other”, so as to have more of these experiences in shared spaces? As we finish our meal and head back to Kwahnesum, we notice our cinnamon friend is now around the corner still busy enjoying his, undisturbed.
Ilona Mihalik, Honours Student