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Bear watching in British Columbia

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Bear watching in British Columbia is a unique and exciting experience.  Numerous guided tours are offered in various parts of the province to view grizzlies, black bears and the elusive Kermode or Spirit Bear in the vast, rugged wilderness. From the safety of boats or viewing platforms and with an experienced guide you’re almost guaranteed to be able to observe and photograph these awe-inspiring animals in their natural surroundings, doing what they do in their daily lives: mating, feeding, hunting, playing, resting and fighting. 

The best time to go bear watching is in the spring or fall. In the spring hungry bears come out from hibernation and can be found feeding on sedge grasses along the river banks, and in the fall bears are fattening up for the coming winter, eating spawning salmon.  

How to tell a grizzly from a black bear? It’s not as easy as you would think. Grizzlies are generally larger than black bears, but a large black bear can be as big as a small grizzly. Black bears can be anywhere from black to blonde, and so can a grizzly.  Grizzlies generally like open spaces, whereas black bears prefer the privacy of trees, but that doesn’t mean that they each never wander into places where they normally wouldn’t hang out. A grizzly has a large hump at the shoulders, a black bear does not. A grizzly’s claws are more visible than a black bear’s because of the lighter colour and larger size.

The Kermode bear is unique to British Columbia. Scientists believe that if both mother and father have the recessive gene, their offspring’s fur will have the white or cream colour typical for this rare subspecies of the black bear. The largest concentrations of Spirit Bears can be found on the islands off the north-central coast of British Columbia, such as Princess Royal Island, situated between the coastal mainland and the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). 

Several dozen tour operators offer once-in-a-lifetime bear watching trips in British Columbia, ranging from a quick half day tour to a multi-day tour. Guests can stay in rustic cabins, or in a comfortable lodge, and have gourmet meals prepared by the resident chef at the end of an unforgettable day. 

Bear watching operators:


See also:

Whale watching in British Columbia