Six Years Safe – A New Era of Being with Bears

Now that the guns have been silenced, there is space to listen to what grizzlies have to teach us. Watch “Being with Bears” below.

Banning the hunting of grizzly bears came after decades of campaigning. This was an incredible conservation achievement for British Columbia; as many First Nations, individuals, scientists, non-profit organisations and wildlife-based tourism companies all came together to give grizzly bears a voice. 

December 18th, 2023 marks six years since the government announced that there would be no more trophy hunting of grizzly bears in British Columbia. One of the most powerful contributions to the campaign against the hunt was an economic study done by Stanford University in 2014 which found that ecotourism brought in more money to the B.C. economy than the hunt, and that it actually took more money to regulate the hunt than it brought in. 

To explore how protecting bears benefits the land, people, and businesses like ecotourism, Pacific Wild staff travelled to the Great Bear Rainforest to speak with experts such as bear guides, and Indigenous leaders.

Watch the video below  come along on a bear-viewing adventure, and hear from Douglas Neasloss and Ellie Lamb about what they have learned from bears over the years.

Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation

Douglas Neasloss is the elected chief councillor for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais nation and a director for the Grizzly Bear Foundation.  He worked for many years as a bear-viewing guide in his territory, including at Spirit Bear Adventures and was very involved in developing ecotourism in his Nation. Currently Spirit Bear Lodge employs approximately 10% of the population in Klemtu and has a conservation and research focus while also helping strengthen and share Kitasoo/Xai’xais culture. Douglas has been advocating for bears for over a decade and was also a core member of the Coastal First Nations Bear Working Group which was integral to the campaign in stopping the trophy hunt.

We met with Douglas when he was on his way to the Grizzly Bear Foundation’s Indigenous round table discussions last November which brought Indigenous people from all over the province together to strategize about what needs to be done to keep the hunt closed.

When I first started as a creek walker, my job was to go and count all the fish in the rivers, and I used to take all my training from the federal government. And so I used to have to take training from ex-trophy hunters on how to shoot a bear and if a bear looked aggressive, ‘shoot it and ask questions later.’ And that was the approach: if a bear stood up, shoot it. [...] But it wasn't until we got involved in tourism that some of the elders and some other bear biologists we spent time with said, leave the gun on the boat: we're going to teach you about bear behaviour. And so they taught me how to study bears, how to track bears, [...] and it introduced a new way of working with bears and a very healthy respect for bears.

Ecotourism has been a huge part of the economy in the Great Bear Rainforest, and has helped lead to the protection of land and species.

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge

Tweedsmuir Park is one of those rare places on earth where grizzly bears have enough ancient forest and clean, free-flowing rivers to fish, forage, and live. Grizzly bears need access to vast tracts of land uninterrupted by industry to survive, but before 2017 in these few remaining spaces, bears were also subjected to trophy hunting. 

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge has created a space where bears and humans can coexist peacefully, being able to observe each other from a safe distance and both live their lives freely. Through bear-viewing expeditions, river floats and walking tours, the experienced and empathetic guides are able to educate the guests on safe bear-viewing behaviour and give them a new and more truthful understanding of both the nature of bears and their intrinsic value to the landscape we all live in.  

Ellie Lamb works as a bear-viewing guide and educator at Tweedsmuir Park Lodge during the summer and fall months.

We’ve been brought up in our culture to fear bears and that has been gravely hard on these animals. Thousands of bears have died and continue to die because our narrative does not represent their nature. People have been taught to be fearful of bears for many generations and at this point this culture is making it really hard to just tell people they do not have to be afraid. It is not what they “know”. The best way to get people to understand and get more understanding and empathy for bears is to actually experience them. Watch them interact, play with their cubs, be joyful as they live their lives as bears. I think seeing is believing when it comes to bears and that is what eco-tourism supports. Ecotourism sets the stage for people to understand nature in a more intimate way. It is helping people to recognize that they themselves are a part of this amazing web of life.

Grizzlies for the Future

Six years is the longest time in over a century where grizzly bears have been allowed to evolve naturally without being shot for sport. 

Unfortunately, grizzly bears still face many threats to their survival. The misrepresentation of grizzly bears’ true nature spread through the promotion of fear-based culture and education is impeding healthy coexistence. Bears come into communities that used to be their habitat and end up getting killed. Bears now also suffer from lack of accessibility to stable food sources including depleting salmon runs, ongoing illegal hunting, the cumulative effects of climate change, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation.

Two ways you can help grizzlies:

1. USE YOUR VOICE: Call on the provincial and federal government to do better for bears.

Put pressure on the B.C. government to legislate the trophy hunting ban, making this remarkable step forward for conservation more difficult to overturn.

Regulations Are Fragile: Regulations under the Wildlife Act can be easily undone. An earlier ban on the B.C. grizzly bear trophy hunt was overturned in 2001 only months after being enacted when an opposing political party came into power. A bill provides robust legal protection, making it significantly harder to reverse.

Future-Proof Conservation: Grizzly bears are vital to our ecosystem. A bill ensures a lasting commitment to their protection, safeguarding our biodiversity for generations to come. For more grizzly conservation talking points see our 11-Point joint letter signed by over 55 environmental and animal care organisations, conservationists, scientists and nature-based businesses. 

B.C. Premier, Hon. David Eby, K.C.( (250) 387-1715

Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. Hon. Minister Nathan Cullen (778) 405-3094
Room 310 Parliament Buildings

Victoria, BC  V8V 1X4

Other contacts to consider emailing: 

National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk,

Hon. George Heyman, Environment Minister and Climate Change of B.C.,

Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change,

Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment,

Hon. Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport,

Logan Wenham, BC Director of Fish & Wildlife,

Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the B.C. Green Party,

*Don’t forget to cc us on your emails!


Grizzly Bears are called umbrella species for a good reason, they are an indicator species, when grizzly bears disappear from the landscape you can guarantee that many other species will disappear as well.

Header photograph taken by Sydney Dixon