A few days ago, I spoke to a photographer who was waiting for a bear. He stood on a walkway that crossed a sockeye spawning steam. The photographer assured me that he had the patience to wait for hours for a bear, even though it was raining. I doubted if his patience would pay off because no salmon were fighting their way up stream. Without them, there was nothing to draw in a bear. I looked down the stream, which wandered through a meadow to Mendenhall Lake. On an August day during a normal salmon year, they would be birds and bears. Today, nothing.
Before I left him to his vigil, the photographer told me that the dog salmon have finally arrived at Sheep Creek. “Bears never fish there, but there are always eagles.” This morning Aki and I confirmed that he was right.
Decaying salmon bodies littered Sheep Creek Delta. Others, listless after spawning, let the water carry them back towards Gastineau Channel. Freshly arrived dog salmon muscled each other for spawning space in the creek. More than a dozen bald eagles sulked or fed on the creek’s gravel bars. Crows and gulls hung around the feeders, waiting for a chance to finish what the big birds started.
Bothered by the loud gull screams, Aki refused to approach the creek. I retreated and then followed her to a quieter section of the delta. Even here, we weren’t free of drama. After fighting over a scrap of salmon, two adult bald eagles left the stream. One chased the other. The one being chased flew low over the beach grass and right at the little dog and I. It passed within three meters of us before gaining enough altitude to clear the beach side cottonwoods.