A while back, I sat talking with my friend, Dave Jones, the old Alaskan story teller. He owns Alpenview Lodge on Kodiak Island and lives in Pierce County when not at the lodge. Many people come to his lodge to fish for salmon and steelhead on the local rivers or they try their hands at deep sea fishing for halibut and lingcod. Dave has stories about fish and his Kodiak bears. I was wondering if any of his guests come just to see the bears or other animals and so I asked him. – alpenview.com/
Dave rubbed his short salt and pepper beard, sipped his mug of coffee and said, “We do offer bear viewing as kind of a stand-alone activity and people will come just to see bears.” “So,” I asked, “they come to the lodge only to see bears?” Dave responded, “No. Usually if I have a person that has that interest, I’m going to not bring them to the lodge. I’m going to direct them to our out camp on the Aya Kulick River. Reason being the bears are a little more concentrated down there and a little more reliable to be in a certain spot at a certain time. When people fly up to Kodiak to see bears, it’s nice that the bears are reliable. Around the lodge, most bear viewing happens incidental to fishing and so we don’t really have a stand-alone Bear viewing at the lodge, I would say the same is true with wildlife viewing in general.”
As a minor, very minor, very, very minor fisherman I persisted, “Then you don’t promote bear viewing or wildlife viewing as opposed to fishing?”
Dave nodded, “Some operations are very in tune to that segment of the market and promote it. For us, generally speaking, it’s an additional activity that you might do while you’re fishing or some family members who accompany the fisherman and don’t have any interest in fishing. And so being able to see wildlife, kayaking, hiking and something other than staying on a boat all day is nice to offer family members.”
I’ve seen many of Dave’s photographs of his lodge and his out camp along with the happy faces of his visitors, and was curious about Kodiak activities. Like a good story spinner, Dave sometimes circles around a subject. “In many of the photos I notice foxes. They’re just running around everywhere and don’t harm anyone? I see you also have electric fences around the tents. So how does that all come together?”
Pushing his baseball cap back on his head, Dave continued, “Well, for people who aren’t necessarily interested in fishing 24-7, we have other activities. Like for a family, for instance, with children or family members who don’t have a 100% fishing attitude, sometimes you can do like a half day of fishing and then do a half day with a kayak or a half day hiking. We have some developed trails around the lodge; we kind of cut them and maintain them. And the beach is all public. And there’s miles of beach to walk in either direction.
And while you’re hiking around in that country, you might see, like we mentioned before, a lot of chance to see brown bear. There’s also black tailed deer, mountain goat, the eagle is another one that people enjoy seeing. And then we also have red fox. They are one of the indigenous species of Kodiak Island, but you can’t let red necessarily fool you because many of them are kind of red in color. A lot of them are very blond in color, some of them are black in color. They’re all like Labradors. You might have a yellow one, or a black one, or a brown one.
The fox is an interesting creature. It has canine characteristic or physical characteristics. But to me, they act a lot like a cat, feline in their habits. And they’re not really difficult to befriend. They spend a lot of time you know, taking scraps away from brown bears and stuff like that. So they’ve got to be fast and they’re confident that they can get in there and grab that and get out of there before they get hurt and that sort of thing.
They’ll approach people, not necessarily approach people but edge up close to them. And so you see them. They can get a little mischievous once in a while. I guess as if I tried to steal your sandwich, or steal a fish off of your string, or something to that effect. They’re not aggressive toward humans in any way, so you don’t have to be afraid of them. Kodiak Island is isolated from the main land. And some areas where there’s a lot of fox or coyote people have a fear of something like rabies or other diseases, but Kodiak’s nice and clean that way, too.
The fox is one of the indigenous land mammals on Kodiak Island. There’s only six and one of them’s the brown bear. Of course the Kodiak brown bear is really famous. The red fox, the river otter both common throughout most of North America, river otters is one. The weasel called ermine in the wintertime when they turn white and let’s see here . . . oh, the tundra vole which is a little thing that looks like a hamster. I guess kind of a flat, fat mouse, short tail, and the little brown bat, that’s also a mammal. Those six mammals are indigenous to Kodiak Island. Now, we have black tailed deer and Roosevelt elk. We also have rocky mountain goat. We have buffalo. We have rabbit. We have beaver . . . , martens, and squirrels. So like all of those other species, or other than those six indigenous, all those other species were introduced by man.”
“The sleeping fox catches no poultry.” – Benjamin Franklin
The image of a fox stealing food from a Kodiak bear is imprinted on my brain. Size wise the fox is insignificant to the bear. It never occurred to me that the fox would use the Kodiak bear as a food source. It reminds me of the “I Ching.” Essayist Eliot Weinberger says, “The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state.” To me it’s kind of like the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.” One of its pieces of wisdom from the “I Ching” says that sometimes the small can defeat the large, “This is a time when more sweeping actions are impossible or inappropriate, but when small matters that will lead to bigger and better things later on can be attended to with success. When the tide is rolling in, by all means ride the waves, but when it is receding like it is now, focus on the little things.” In other words, it’s the little things that matter. Kind of like a marriage.
“You should never turn down the offer of another man’s story,’ the fox persisted, moving off a little further into the trees ahead. ‘Stories are the only thing that separates us from the animals after all.” – T.B. McKenzie
A friend saw her only fox as she stood looking out her condo window in Lakewood. The fox crossed the lawn hesitating half-way to yawn. I saw my only fox by Delano Bay. He was walking down the road towards me. I looked away for a second and when I looked back it was gone. I looked back and forth and then completely turned around and saw it walk away. It had somehow sneaked past me in the undergrowth and continued on down the road.
Fox stories go back thousands of years to Aesop’s Fables where there are 28 stories about foxes. Native Americans have more than a dozen stories of fox trickery. Eskimo legends have two. I like the Fox Woman Eskimo Legend. A fox appears as a woman to clean and put a man’s home in order. She cleans every day. When the man complains, she simply puts on her fox fur and leaves him alone forever. It’s the little things that count.