WATCH: Grizzly bear viewing guides are calling for end to B.C.’s controversial grizzly bear trophy hunt. Tess van Straaten reports.
It’s one of British Columbia’s fastest-growing tourism sectors.
“There’s an insatiable appetite for grizzly bear viewing in the world,” says Dean Wyatt of Knight Inlet Lodge, the province’s largest bear-viewing operation.
Since B.C.’s one of the best places to view grizzlies, viewing tours like the ones Wyatt offers are now big business — bringing in an estimated $60 to $80 million this year in direct revenue and hundreds of millions in total economic impact.
“We’re always full which means we have to turn down a lot of business and that means many of those tourists will go somewhere else (like Alaska) and not come to B.C. and spend their money here.”
Wyatt and other operators want to expand to help meet the demand but they say they can’t because of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.
“Those bears are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the viewing industry,” Wyatt explains. “For hunters, it’s a one-time shot bur for us, we can view that bear millions of times and people will keep coming back to see them.”
That’s why the Commercial Bear Viewing Association is calling on the B.C. government to stop the controversial trophy hunt.
“It makes it very, very difficult for our whole industry to survive when you’ve got the animals that you’re out there viewing being shot for fun,” says Kevin Smith of Maple Leaf Adventures.
“All of my guests are mortified that there is still bear hunting,” adds Tom Rivest of Great Bear Lodge and president of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia. “There’s no need to, it’s unethical and they’re worth so much more from viewing than they are hunting.”
First Nations lead charge for province-wide ban on trophy hunting in B.C.
It’s estimated the trophy hunt is only worth about $4.8 million — a fraction of grizzly tourism — and there’s growing pressure from First Nations for a province-wide ban.
“We need to preserve them, study them and understand them more so future generations can learn about them and enjoy them as well,” explains Kalvin Hackett of Homalco Wildlife Tours.
But the B.C. Liberal government says it isn’t budging, even though a recent Insights West poll found 91 per of British Columbians support a ban.
Until they do, Dean Wyatt — who’s hosted 30,000 guests — is actually paying his area hunting guide $25,000 not to hunt.
“I buy his hunt so he won’t hunt a bear in my zone,” explains Wyatt. “My clients put in at least half of the money every year to help buy that hunt.”
But Wyatt says he’s tired of paying and hopes something will be done soon to protect this important industry.