The Department of Tourism is defending a program that brings travel bloggers and international media to New Brunswick, including an opportunity to observe wild black bears.

The province’s travel media program costs about $400,000 per year and includes stops throughout the province, including at Little Big Bear Safari in eastern New Brunswick.

The Acadieville business, until last week, hand fed wild bears so tourists could get a closer look at the animals.

But the Department of Natural Resources discourages the practice of feeding bears, saying it may result in a bear becoming a nuisance.

"You should never feed a bear, as the animal will then associate people with food, and may become a problem," the department advises on its website.

"Once a bear becomes accustomed to receiving food from people, its aggressiveness can lead to personal injuries or property damage. Once this occurs, the animal is either relocated to an unfamiliar environment where its chance of survival decreases, or it is destroyed."

Little Big Bear Safari has been criticized by several wildlife biologists who say it's a dangerous practice to feed bears.

Despite that, Jane Matthews Clark, a spokesperson with the tourism department, said there has never been a safety issue with bringing the travel journalists to the site.  

"The safety of visitors is a top concern for our department. Travel media who have visited have not expressed safety concerns when visiting this site — they are in a viewing tower," she said.

Matthews Clark goes on to say that wildlife viewing is especially popular with the European market and that's why Little Big Bear Safari is part of many media tours for visiting journalists from France and Germany.

Matthews Clark also defended the expenditure saying the media coverage from visiting journalists translates into $16 million in commercial advertising.