Inside B.C.’s grizzly sanctuary
“Remember, you don’t have to run faster than the bear,” our bush pilot, Ken Cote, informs us. “You just have to run faster than one of us.” I look at our eight-member group appraisingly, and my eyes linger on Tyler Clarke, a staffer from Northern BC Tourism who is wearing the 18-kilogram Google Street View Trekker backpack. I exhale ever so slightly.
When in grizzly country, it’s inevitable that someone will drop a zinger about bears—it’s just a question of when. For us, it happened on the dock at the floating Khutzeymateen Wilderness Lodge, five minutes after hopping off Cote’s de Havilland Beaver float plane. Joking about hungry wildlife may be good fun in campsites across Canada, but up here, 50 kilometres north of already-remote Prince Rupert, B.C., Cote’s advice takes on a morbid practicality.
Aside from the lodge’s staff, the members of our troop—which includes a Swiss family (two parents, three kids)—are the only human occupants of the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary and adjacent conservancies. The 58,360 hectares of protected habitat is home to roughly 50 grizzlies, so we’re seriously outnumbered. But for us, that’s a good thing, as the Trekker has been dispatched here for the sole purpose of seeing these giants in their natural setting and cataloguing the experience for Google-able posterity. The only problem is, we can’t seem to find them.
Check out these remarkably photogenic animals in their natural habitats.