Lonely Planet Writer

Grizzly bear watching set for a boost in British Columbia

With this week’s announcement that the Canadian province of British Columbia has banned grizzly bear hunting, many are hoping locals and tourists paying to observe grizzly bears will help protect the animals and their habitat.

A female and her cub in British Columbia. Photo by Murray_O’Neil

The ban on grizzly bear hunting was announced earlier this week with immediate effect, meaning the spring hunting season that was due to start in April has now been called off. The only exception will be First Nations people who hunt the animals for food and ceremonial reasons.

Some guides have complained about the potential loss of earnings from the move; CBC reports groups can charge upward of CAD $17,000 for a hunting tour. However the province’s Environment Minister George Heyman said research showed more revenue and jobs could be created by ecotourism and bear-watching in their natural environment. Grizzly bears are notoriously reclusive and touring with a trained guide can greatly increase your chances of spotting one. The regional government has also promised a supported transition from hunting.

Alaska is one of the best places to spot the grizzly bear but this could change. Photo by Naphat Photography/Getty Images

The move was welcomed by environmentalists across the board who called on the government to now address the loss of habitat faced by the animals, which was described in a recent report as the most pressing threat to their existence. Last year 300 grizzly bears were killed in a hunt and just 50 of these were by First Nations.

British Columbia is home to approximately 15,000 grizzly bears which is about 60% of Canada’s entire species population. They’re not the only famous bears in the province either; the rare white bear recently came under new protection as its home in the Great Bear Rainforest is now part of a Commonwealth conservation programme.