Desolation sound and bear country

RyanC

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Feb 8, 2022
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Hey all,

I’m going be up in British Columbia this summer for a couple of weeks for a Climbing trip, a class at skookumchuck, and then possibly a solo paddle in the desolation sound area. I was thinking about circumnavigating the Redonda islands and perhaps a little further north and west. I know it is generally bear habitat up there especially at the head of Toba Inlet but I am curious if there are bears on the Redonda islands, rendezvous island, or any of the smaller islands inside of the desolation Marine Park. If so what are general protocols people have been using to safely navigate bear areas in the region???

Best,
Ryan
 

AM

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As you’ve probably read, you’re into grizzly country once you’re up the inlets, or even on the mainland side of the Sound, though given that bears swim, there’s no reason there wouldn’t be a grizzly or two on the Redondas. Black bears for sure on the Redondas. And lots of cougars in the area.

As for protocols, common senses is your guide. Food storage is the big consideration. I leave mine in my hatches — never a problem, though wolves have definitely sniffed it out. Generally, if you are not in a well-used camp, there should be no “problem” bears in the area, which means local bears’ desire for food should be outweighed by their fear of people. If the camp you choose is obviously frequently used, and especially if it’s dirty, then there would be more concern.

Bear hangs are increasingly seen as useless. I have used them when canoeing, but in that case my food is in a large plastic food barrel. Not so when kayaking.

For defence I take spray. I’ve never used it, though I actually drew it from its holster in anger for the first time this summer — that action alone seemed to convince the bear to back off. Every other time, I’ve yelled and scared off whatever beast is in my space — several bears, twice wolves, and once a cougar.

If you want to understand bears and their behaviour, you can’t beat Herrero’s Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. It’s from the 80s, but I believe he is still active in the field, so it’s been updated.

Oh, and I agree with Andrew Skurka that the real problem is posed by mini-bears: all the little critters that can get into your food and ruin it. Another reason why food hangs are not great — mice can climb!

If you are a wise, prudent person, there is no need to be bearanoid.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

Jasper

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Portland, OR, US
"I leave mine in my hatches — never a problem"
In my time in a kayak shop, I have seen various hatch covers ruined by various critters. A pretty shitty thing to happen mid-trip.
I strongly recommend bear canisters.
 

AM

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Good to know, Jasper. Where are these people camping? In BC there is still enough remoteness that in many places animals are not food conditioned. In places that are higher use, bear lockers are pretty common. For example, the wolves on Vargas Island have learned to take off Valley/Kajaksport hatches (but not solid lids). Parks has therefore installed food lockers in that location. However, wolves farther north have not learned that trick, as there are fewer paddlers.

One experienced guide I know advocates putting your tent right by your boat so that any nuisance critter will wake you. I have stacked logs and pots to create an alarm bell effect. I’ve also flipped the boat over so that the beast would have to make noise to get at the food.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

adm

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Sounds like a fun trip!

Like Andrew said, common sense is your friend. This is great advice: " As for protocols, common senses is your guide. Food storage is the big consideration. I leave mine in my hatches — never a problem, though wolves have definitely sniffed it out. Generally, if you are not in a well-used camp, there should be no “problem” bears in the area, which means local bears’ desire for food should be outweighed by their fear of people. If the camp you choose is obviously frequently used, and especially if it’s dirty, then there would be more concern. "

I would also recommend reading up on mammal behavior - great solo camping reading material. Bear spray comes everywhere with me and stays properly secured. Works on many things other than bears. Thanks to someone not being focused on bear safety we have a dead grizzly up my Doogie Dowler...

Doogie Dowler Grizzly Attack

As for what Jasper says, perhaps that is true, but I have never had a problem keeping food in hatches. Even with 7 days of raw veggies, freshly baked bread, cookies, and cakes for 12 people. Keep your boat close enough to thwart any would be attempts though. I have chased grizzlies out of our Bute Inlet camps before.

Don't be fooled into thinking that if you are on an island there are no bears. There are grizzlies, black bears, wolves, cougars, and raccoons on all the islands. This summer I was fortunate enough to see a cougar swimming between islands. Grizzly on Quadra 2021
1644424881847.png



Have fun! The north side of Redondas is beautiful and remote with not too many people venturing that way. Toba and Bute are gorgeous as well. Don't be too worried about bears, just be happy if you are lucky enough to see one!
 

Jasper

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Andrew, mostly in the San Juans, so certainly more food conditioned...

I still like bear-cans, if only for the joy of watching them play:
(Not my video, just random stuff from the internet)
 

cougarmeat

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Though many have gone years without a problem storing food in their kayak, it only takes one time for an "intrusion" to ruin a trip. I have moved from stringing food up a tree to using a bear barrel. Not only does the barrel protect the food, it is also a nice alternative to the ground for sitting. But I don't store it near camp when the meal is over. I move it away as I would the food bag if I were hanging it.
 

kilroy

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Bear canisters are huge pain when backpacking because of their bulk, but I can't see much of a downside when kayaking.
 

adm

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Bear canisters are huge pain when backpacking because of their bulk, but I can't see much of a downside when kayaking.
Freya Hoffmeister brought a bear canister on a section of her trip in Alaska, and the combination of swell and surf landings caused the hull to crack from impacting the bear canister. Don't think this would be an issue in Discovery Islands...just a thought though!

A kayak is essentially a big bear canister, no? :D
 

cougarmeat

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Because the lid of my canister is not waterproof, I carry it in a dry bag - so there is some cushioning. In addition, it is pushed up towards the bow so fits snugly between the hull sides. I can't imagine any "banging" from the inside that would crack the hull. Now maybe if the hull was a ridiculously thin construction to save weight ...
 

eggabeewa

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I've started using a bear canister for hiking and kayaking. Previously I have just stored mine in the hatches without any problem. Hatches are fine for mice etc. I've never had problems with bears but bear problems are caused by irresponsible previous people and i am no longer comfortable trusting bears to not be able to get into a kayak. There are bears all over the coast but really consider yourself lucky to see one.
 

cougarmeat

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I can't say, "recent times" anymore because there hasn't been anything "recent" for the last two years - but ... raccoons used to be a problem on some popular islands (looking at you, Jones and Wallace). Somehow they seemed to have disappeared? But when they were in force, it would not be surprising to see scratches/bite marks around your hatch covers if you had food inside. Sure, usually, you are still on top of the food chain when it comes to raccoons. But I've experienced some not only opening a zippered container and making off with some cheese, but they also dragged a paddle bootie for about 20 ft (until they probably succumbed to the smell). And I've seen paddlers hang their snacks in a nylon bag, only to have it torn to shreds by birds (crows/ravens?).

I sorta, kinda, wish the barrel was waterproof. However, I'd still need to put it in a drybag - something with a handle - so I could pull it out of the hatch. It's purposely made with nothing to hang on to. I just put a trash bag over the barrel at night.
 

Kayak Jim

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Comox Valley BC
One time paddling in Algonquin Park I woke to find a racoon hanging from my suspended food bag. It had successfully opened the tied together zipper pulls and was dumping our food onto the ground for it's waiting buddies. I put the remaining food in a dry bag and threw it out into the lake with a rock for an anchor and a tether to shore. I started hanging a barrel after that.
 

SZihn

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Jul 1, 2021
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Shoshoni Wyoming
I have to deal with Grizzlies every year because the areas I hunt in and used to guide other hunters into is very full of them. But we are armed, with nearly all hunters carrying powerful handguns and bear spray at all times and sleeping with firearms along side. Mountain Grizzlies don't have as easy a time finding food as coastal brown bears, so that makes them more aggressive by nature and also because of a lack of nutrition as compared to coastal bears, they are smaller.

So with that said, I am unsure if I could add much to the conversation. But it does make me wonder; How is having an "alarm" going to help when fuzzy-nasty comes in the middle of the night if you are not allowed to be armed? You could be awake to make noise and maybe they will scare off? In the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming and Montana I would try if I was unarmed (being unarmed is not realistic to me and I have NEVER done that) to make noise and scaring one away, I would not feel very good about my chances. In about 12 instances I have seen Grizzlies fail to run off even when cooking pans and guns are used to make noise. If gun shots don't do it and pans clanging, what type of noise would? I can't say.

Having worked around them for decades and seen them kill wild animals and also several horses and cattle, the idea of fending one off with a knife or frying pan seems like a plan similar to jumping out of a car just before it hits another car. Yes it can be done and yes some have done it, but most have not come out alive and those that did never come out unhurt.

So I am following this thread and watching what others say. Paddling along the coast when you know you have grizzlies and not having any weapons is something I'd have no advice for. It's foreign to me. I am a newbee to kayaking but FAR from a newbee when it comes to dealing with bears. Dealing with Grizzlies is something I have about 45 years of experience with.

A passing thought of mine is to place all your food in one kayak at evening camps with a very good anchor attached, and tow it out to float in the water several yards away from shore. A depth of even 8 feet of water is good enough. Bears can swim, but not quietly, and if they were trying to drag off your food you may get a warning from the splashing that would take place. Such a "bait" would maybe lead them away from your tent of sleeping bag. It would cut your trip short------ loosing it all, but to paddle back disappointed that your fun was cut short you have to be alive. Disappointed and alive seems better then a short trip because you are mauled and/or dead. And coming home early it's best to be in good physical condition and not looking like you have been run over by a field cultivator.

OK.......shutting up now........ and reading what others say. Those that have done it and have experience going into their "bear's bedrooms" unarmed.
This is interesting to me.
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
a very good anchor attached, and tow it out to float in the water several yards away from shore. A depth of even 8 feet of water is good enough.
But tides in BC’s grizzly country can be 20 or 30 feet! That anchored boat will be a long way from shore come high tide!

When I paddled the Inside Passage a decade ago, I ancohored my kayak almost every night. It wasn’t an anti-bear measure; I just didn’t want to carry an 80-pound boat up and down the beach twice each day! Over the course of 120-day trip, it broke free of its anchor three times, including one occasion in which seawater got in and ruined half my food. Also, the boat banged against newly revealed rocks as the tide level rose and fell, scratching and even puncturing the hull. (This was a folding boat, so such damage was annoying but hardly worrisome.) I don’t recommend anchoring, but your mileage may vary.

For bears, I just bring bear barrels and a can of spray, or increasingly often these days, no weapon at all. I sleep soundly and never fear. I’ve always been able to yell off every bear who came around, athough big grizzlies take some pretty persistent yelling!

Alex
 
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