Black Bear are the largest mammal found on the Prince of Wales Island. Our bear are docile. There has never been a documented bear attack on a human on this island. However, they are wild and should be given a wide berth. “You won’t win the fight!” These bear can be seen during any month of the year. During January and February of 2016, we had one in camp. These part-time carnivorous creatures were once trapped for their fur. During the early spring, the bear eat young grass shoots and are often seen on the upper part of the beach. Mid-summer finds these guys eating berries and are inland a bit, but once the salmon start to spawn, the bear frequent the streams and fatten themselves up for the winter.
Whale, mainly the Humpback, make up the majority of sightings around the Prince of Wales. A biologist friend has taken pictures of the whales’ tails and has identified these same whales in Hawaii near the Big Island. Each whale has distinct markings on it’s tail. Killer Whale or Orca are the second most popular. They are easily identified from their black and white color. They are intelligent, curious, and form a tight family group when traveling or feeding.
Seals and Sea Lions are seen too often when fishing. Sports and commercial fisher-people feed thousands of pounds of salmon to sea lions each year. They can catch salmon on their own, but welfare isn’t just for humans anymore. A large bull can weight up to one ton. These guys have scars to show their age and many battles. Their only enemy, since the U.S. government placed a moratorium on sea mammals, is the Killer Whale. The water turns bright red when the two meet. Our seals also take their share of salmon. There are various species, but the harbor seal is the most common. During the late fall of 2011, the local ferry workers spotted an elephant seal between the POW and Ketchikan, and the last two years we have had a leopard seal hanging around our dock just after the salmon runs were over.
Sea Otters are a happy group of critters with very dense fur. They are a larger member of the weasel family and can be seen rolling and back-paddling across inside waters. Often we will spot them with a young one sitting on its mother’s stomach, and other times we’ll see an otter swimming on its back with shellfish and a small rock on their stomach. They are smart enough to use tools.