A Victoria-based conservation group has B.C.’s grizzly hunt in its crosshairs – hoping a new type of eco-tour will help put an end to the controversial practice for good.
The Raincoast Conservation Foundation is readying the 20-metre research vessel “Achiever” as it prepares to offer photographic tours deep in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.
While photographic tours of the province’s iconic grizzlies are nothing new, the foundation says all four trips it’s offering this year will be strictly by donation.
“We’re taking guests up there to hunt bears with cameras,” said Nicholas Sinclair, marine operations coordinator with Raincoast. “It really gives them a chance to view these animals in their pristine habitats.”
But it’s the donations that are helping limit the grizzly bear hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest.
At a minimum suggested donation of $5,000 a pop, money from the tours is helping the foundation snap up guiding rights away from trophy hunters.
So far, Raincoast has purchased guiding rights for 32,000 square kilometres along B.C.’s Central Coast.
“We’re purchasing the exclusive guiding rights over large territories, and we’re partnered with coastal First Nations on this in order to gain control of the commercial hunting, non-residents of B.C. coming to kill grizzly bears for trophies,” said Brian Falconer, a guide outfitter coordinator with Raincoast.
The guiding rights require tour operators to go on hunts, but Falconer said with a smirk “our hunts haven’t been, to this point, successful.”
B.C.’s current government sanctions limited hunting, and grizzly bears aren’t considered endangered in Canada.
But Raincoast hopes its new revenue stream will mean more land for bears and less for hunters.
“The message is pretty simple,” said Sinclair. “These bears are worth more alive than they are dead.”
Trips aboard the “Achiever” will be offered in spring and fall, and will each last about nine days, according to Raincoast.