The water was very choppy once I made it out of the North Bentinck Arm and into the Burke Channel. I lowered the nose of the Nan with the trim tabs and slowed down my speed to 22 knots, which helped. The tide was dropping all the way to Kwatna but it didn’t seem to help at all. I passed two boats on the way and then a suspicious boat towing a small aluminum runabout when I turned into Kwatna. It was heading west down the Burke.
Arrival in Kwatna was approximately 1:00pm and I dropped the anchor Kwatna Bay at about 80 feet; just off a shallow bench about 12 feet deep at the mouth of the river. I made sure to enter an OK message on the Nan’s SPOT and GPS to let the Central Coast Bear & Wolf Patrol Control Centre know I had successfully arrived at Kwatna.
I waited for high tide.
May 18, 2012
There was no one in sight but there could be people on shore. I sat out on the stern deck of the boat and watched the shores with my binoculars. I quickly spotted a blue tarp strung up through the spindly patch of alder trees up on the landing. I have hiked that area before and know there are also buildings and notes of bears written on the walls. A short while after, I unloaded the zodiac from the top of the Nan, installed the engine and filled it with gas. I already knew the river was much too shallow at low tide so my plan was to travel up it at 5:30pm.
When I travelled up the Kwatna River I took a short look around the island. No one was in sight and I retreated back to the Nan. I baited a crab trap at about 50 feet off the stern. Then I retreated to the cabin and had a hot tea and scanned the shores again. I used the spare time to make entries into my journal to document all my activities so far. Then I pulled out the SAT phone and reported in to the Coastal Bear & Wolf Patrol Control Centre.
At approximately 7pm I heard an airplane approaching from the west outside of Kwatna Bay. I was out in the zodiac at the time resetting the crab pot. I had to retrieve the camera from the Nan because I knew this was suspicious and exactly the activity I was looking to document on the Bear & Wolf Patrol.
It flew in and landed in the water and made its way over to the old landing at the south of the bay. It was a white float plane with an orange strip on each side. I took pictures of it as it unloaded the men on the beach. I could easily see passengers get off and carry their gear up to the landing. In less than 5-7 minutes the plane was back in the air and it flew back out of Kwatna Bay to the west. It briefly angled towards the Nan and its wing dipped slightly so as to take a quick look at me. This plane was going somewhere else than Bella Coola, possibly Bella Bella because of its direction of travel. Following this, I got out the SAT phone and called in a report to the Coastal Bear & Wolf Patrol Control Centre in Bella Coola.
Shortly after their arrival I spotted three individuals on the beach in dark clothing walking the shore and they disappeared into the tree line. Then about half an hour later and down the beach from their little camp on the landing, I spotted three men in camouflage in the grass in front of the tree line. They were carrying some gear and had rifles over their shoulders. I could clearly see them. One hunter was doing things in the grass and the other was working in the trees. He threw an orange rope or flagging tape up into the limbs. The third hunter disappeared and didn’t come back out into view. Soon they all disappeared into the tree line, and the orange tape was not there anymore. About 30 minutes later two hunters appeared further down in front of the tree line on the grassy beach to the east. They were pointing and viewing the terrain across the tide flats and grass land behind the Kwatna Island.
By 9pm there was no sign of them.
At 9:07pm the light was diminishing and I observed two hunters hiking out from behind the Island. They crossed the grass lands of the tide flats and took off their back packs and sat up on the grass in front of the tree line for about 5-10 minutes. Then they continued hiking along the tree line until they reached a large pile of rocks. They disappeared up in behind the rocks and must have taken the road back to the landing where they had made their little camp. I estimate there were about 5 hunters here now.
It started to get dark and I couldn’t see anything else on shore. I then made another call on the SAT phone to the Bear & Wolf Patrol Control Centre to report on all the hunters activities so far.
At 2:45am I woke up to the sound of a generator. It was calm out and the water flat as glass; I made note of the location of the crab pot and the speed of the flow past the boat. I could see a light where the engine was running. I thought this was on the landing where the bear hunters were camped, but I soon realized this was not the case. I quickly found the night vision binoculars, and put in new batteries.
photo: Jason Moody
After further observations, I learned that due to the low tide, the force of the Kwatna River, and the lack of the west wind, the Nan had now completely spun around on her anchor and was now facing to the east! The night vision had helped me see the outline of a large vessel and the anchor light on the west side of the bay. The light was about the same height as the landing on the other side of the bay; that’s what had added to the confusion. This vessel must have arrived about 2:00am and I just didn’t wake up right away. I then got out the SAT phone and reported all activities to the Bear & Wolf Patrol Control Centre. I was completely awake and full of energy at this point and never went back to sleep.
I can do this work at any hour of the day or night.
I plan to go over to Kwatna Island for a few hours when the light comes up. I’d like to hike over and have a good view of the back side of the island to observe and photograph all the activities going on in the grassy tide flats. The hunters were all over that area yesterday, so I want to see what they’re doing. They’ll be hiding in the tree line again, and looking through those little camouflaged blinds they use to watch the bears. This seems so ridiculous to me. Why are they hunting these animals? Not for food, that’s for sure. It’s not a sport at all, and I disagree with every disgusting aspect of this. They should leave these animals alone. I want them to leave Kwatna and never come back.
At 5:35am the anchor is still holding. Low tide will be at 6:05am, and it was flat calm all night. The boat anchored on the west side was actually a prawn boat. There is a lot of commercial pawning taking place in our Territory right now. I hope there is still some left for all the Nuxalk people back home. We like to food fish for prawns. I don’t understand why our Territory has to supply other markets around the world. It can’t be sustainable.
6:30am-8:30am I took the zodiac to the Kwatna Island. The river was very low and I had to hop over board almost immediately and start towing the boat upstream in the river. I am amazed how much sediment has filled all the rivers. In Bella Coola the bottom of the river is now probably up about 20 feet from when I was a child.
It took about 30 minutes to arrive at the access point of the island. My uncle Cecil had told me there was a trail starting at that end of the Island, and there was a graveyard. I found the trail immediately and also the cedar boxes full of my ancestor’s bones. I paid my respects and asked to pass through as I had to do my work here. There was a bear bed right in against the rock wall beside the grave.
It took approximately an hour to hike across the Island. I had stopped in a place where I could see the river to the east about half way. I found another 8 bear beds and some old scat along the way; I took some pictures. I reached the other end of the Island and could see across to where I was watching the hunters the day before. But no sign of the hunters I had seen there; they must be hiking further up the river on the south side, or just staying in tree cover. However, the geese over on the North side of the river kept on getting spooked, so I think they are staying under cover, and hiding in blinds they already have set up in the tree line over there. Before leaving the island, I sent an OK message on the SPOT to show the Old Man in the Control Centre back Bella Coola where I had been hiking.
At 10:30am I had made it back to the Nan. I checked the crab trap, and still only had one crab in the trap! There has got to be more crabs here in Kwatna. There are a lot of ducks and sea gulls and a few seals fishing the area too. I also noticed that in the shallow waters about 15-30 feet there was a lot of small fry about .5-1.0 gram in size. Definitely fry from this year. 12:00pm I am going to head up the river with the high tide.
Between 12:10pm-1:40pm, I travelled up and down the Kwatna River and around the Island on the north side. It took me 1.5 hours to complete the total trip. I had set the SPOT in tracking mode, so it will show the trip I took as I travelled. Nobody seen; they are still hiding in the trees or just staying in their little camp.
On the way back as I rounded the Island it was very windy and the waves broke over the front of the zodiac; I was soaked.
Then I saw a Grizzly Bear on the beach on the grass in front of their camp! I pulled into the shelter of a log by the island and got out the camera. Then I slowly idled across the shallow waters towards the bear. I snapped off a few pictures but he heard my engine and darted up into the trees. He must have crossed the road about a 100 yards east of their camp. I’m glad that bear got off the beach before they saw him. I was worried about that bear, just a young kid, and I didn’t want those hunters to kill him.
I then turned into the waves and picked up speed. The waves broke over the small zodiac, and I got sprayed every time. The Nan was turning and twisting on her anchor. As I approached I had to adjust and anticipate where she would turn so I could land on the swimming platform! I loaded the zodiac and locked down the engine again and fired up the boat. I quickly pulled the anchor and headed over to the anchorage I saw the prawn boat anchored out in the night before. This took me about an hour from 2-3pm. I also ran a shore line to secure the Nan’s stern. However, my location is not as good for viewing the hunter’s activities on shore now. The binoculars are still good enough for me though. I should have a telescope!
At 6pm I crossed back over to where I was first anchored to retrieve the crab trap I had left there. No problem, but only one crab again? I checked the trap to find that one of the walls was installed upside down! Ha. So every time I set it, the door would be open, no wonder... I fixed it and reset it over by the Nan on the North West side of Kwatna Bay.
At 7:30pm I observed a hunter come out in the alder trees and stand there for about 5 minutes watching me on the Nan. He had a black top and a light cap. He didn’t move for a long time, and then he was gone all of a sudden from my view. They must be staying in camp and wondering who I am over here.
I am Nuxalk and if they shoot a bear I want to film it and show the world how horrible this bear hunt really is. I want these so called trophy hunters to leave the bears alone so I can bring people to see them alive. Not dead and stuffed. This is my sustainable economics they are killing. Sustainable economics like bear viewing is for the benefit of the Nuxalk people. We want to train our youth to take care of the animals and be proud of our culture; the bear is a powerful crest for us and these bear killers don’t respect this spiritual animal.
At 9:30pm the hunters lit a fire for the first time. I observed the smoke trailing out of the small alder trees. Smoke on the landing. They know I am here, and I always knew they were here...
May 20, 2012
Between 5:30am – 6:00am I checked the crab trap, and I got 7 crabs this time! Ha! Then I removed my shore line and pulled the anchor. I slowly idled out into the middle of Kwatna Bay. It was flat calm and I had a coffee and scanned the shores. No sign of any activity yet. I made a call on the SAT phone to the Old Man at the Control Centre to update and find out if I have some reinforcements coming from Bella Bella and Shearwater.
At 6:30am I observed three hunters hiking out along the same shore along the tree line to the south of the island. This is right at a low tide and could be the time they would try to kill a bear.
If I hear a gunshot, I have to go and find the bear they shot. They might only wound it, and it could run away and die up in the hills somewhere. If they lose it, I’ll go find it and document it suffering and dying. I want the world to see this.
I got the SAT phone out and called the Old Man at the Coastal Bear & Wolf Patrol Control Centre. We had a good talk, and he said Ian McAllister would be here this morning. I thought to myself, “Right on.” I called Ian and got to talk to Karen for awhile. She told me Ian would be here by 9:30am.
I waited for him.
I wanted to tell him what these bear hunters had been doing, and where they were camped and where their blinds were placed to see the bears. I know he can help expose this for the world to see. He worked with my father Qwatsinas for years helping to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.
At 8:50am Ian arrived in Kwatna Bay and he tied up to the Nan. We were just drifting free with our engines off. We talked about all the things the hunters were doing. I told him about my trips up the river and the one bear I had seen. I told him about the float plane that had come in with hunters, and I showed him the pictures of it.
He said to me, “That is Wayne Sisson's plane.” He knew right away, and I knew for sure that Wayne was transporting hunters here illegally. I thought to myself, “This has got to stop. I will do anything to stop it.”
Then Ian made a phone call to Old Man on the SAT phone, and they had a great chat. I could hear the Old Man say, “Is Ian there yet?” Ian said, “Yeah I’m here, and I’m early.” He was, about 40 minutes early. They talked and talked about how this was all illegal, and that Kwatna was supposed to be a conservancy for bears to exist without being targeted by hunters. I thought to myself;
“What good is a conservancy that allows hunting of the bears?” It just doesn’t make sense...
I couldn’t stay anymore, as I had to go back to Bella Coola. I had a job that started on Monday morning with the Tribal Council, and I had to be rested and ready. But I’ll be back to observe all this activity going on here again. Till then, there will be other Coastal Bear & Wolf Patrols coming from my brothers in the Heiltsuk Nation. I keep in touch with them, and we share the work load of monitoring the bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.
United we are strong.
We also plan to form a Central Coast First Nation’s Bear Alliance with the all Central Coast Nations to also include the Kitasoo/ Xaixais and the Wuikinuxv as well.
I watched Ian slowly idle into Kwatna Bay with his hound and thinking; “OK, he’s here now. Take over my good friend and protect the bears while I’m gone. But I’ll be back to work with you again.”
I departed at 10:30am after fueling up with a couple of jerry cans from the deck. I checked the oil too. Then I picked up speed and set the Nan at 3250 rpm’s and she moved at 27.2 knots in the flat calm water. I followed a low tide all the way to Bella Coola and made it there in 1 hour and 15 minutes. What a trip.
I know now, this is what I am supposed to do.
Jason Moody - Nuxalkmc
BC Coastal Bear & Wolf Patrol – Nuxalk Division.
Nuxalk Strong, Nuxalk Forever.