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In 1996, I saw a documentary about an island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, where amazing light-colored bears lived, along with brown bears, ravens, eagles, otters, wolves, and many others, happy with the rich bounty of the sea and the salmon. Once, too, Tlingit Indians had lived there at the edge of the rainforest, but now the island was unpopulated, and belonged to the wildlife and the forest. The filmmakers did not mention the name of the island, in order to protect it. After seeing the documentary, I wrote this poem:

Salmon and Bears

On an island near the coast
in the western sea
where no man is,
there are bears--

white bears with russet eyes and ears
and ordinary brown bears
who loom, heads swaying,
shifting from paw to paw
on the wet rocks.

They must learn to climb and fish,
not in the pools
where the salmon rest,
but in the risen swirling water after rain,
cold and clean--

the bears with their sharp teeth holding
the glistening skin,
water still running salty and slick
on the scales--

when the fish leap
and the bears catch their pink flesh
and pearl eggs,
warm and sweet.

(©3/28/96 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)

In January 2001, I received a mailing from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), asking for contributions to protect the island from clearcut logging. The NRDC wrote: "The elusive white Spirit Bear lives only in the temperate rainforests of British Columbia, Canada. NRDC is waging a campaign to end clearcutting of the Spirit Bear's home and to protect it instead as a rainforest preserve."

The island in the western sea is Pooley Island, and this home of the Spirit Bear needs your help. Join the campaign of the Raincoast Conservation Society to save Canada's Great Bear Rainforest!



Photo of Spirit Bear from the NRDC



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