Worrying images have been shared of a family of grizzly bears desperately searching for food before going into hibernation.
The bears were photographed near the shores of Knight Inlet, British Columbia, Canada, looking for fish to eat despite a severely depleted salmon population. Fishermen in the area have said this is the worst salmon year in nearly 50 years.
The mother and two cubs looked dangerously thin, just a month before they are supposed to go into hibernation for the winter.
Photographer Rolf Hicker shared the photos on his Facebook page:
Experts have said the dwindling salmon population is due to human factors such as salmon farming, which can pollute the water and spread disease among fish. In addition, climate change has affected fish populations as warming water temperatures disturb the ecosystem. Canada in particular is experiencing accelerated climate warming, according to a study by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Posting the photos to Facebook, photographer Rolf Hicker wrote:
Worst Salmon run here in the Broughton in history I read today. I fully believe it. I have not seen a single salmon in a river so far. The bears are starving and it breaks my heart seeing this unfold.
I believe it is important to show this side too. Here in the Broughton is no salmon left for the bears (and whales I must assume?).
We saw this sow with her two little ones a couple of weeks ago and then we saw her again only a few days ago. I have no idea how she would make it through the winter without salmon.
I sure prefer to show you beautiful nice wildlife and nature pictures but it is important and my duty as a photographer to show you this side too.
Knight Inlet is a popular spot in British Columbia for seeing grizzly bears. The area, along with Hoeya Sound and Lull Bay, is monitored by the Mamalilikulla First Nation.
Jake Smith, guardian watchman manager for the Mamalilikulla First Nation, told CNN:
They have drastically changed within a couple months. The bears are in trouble.
Smith said when he saw the images of the bears, he knew he had to help. Salmon is the bears’ main food source and is currently at an all-time low in the area.
As a result, Smith arranged for 500 salmon – donated by A-Tlegay Fisheries Society – to be donated and distributed along the shores where the bears hunt.
Smith said the bears were present and started eating the fish right away. However, this is only the first step in helping the animals, and the Mamalilikulla First Nation has said it will continue to monitor the bears and the food situation in the area.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.