British Columbia

B.C. First Nation takes travel restrictions as opportunity to study tourism impacts on bears

The Kitasoo-Xai'Xais First Nation on B.C.’s Central Coast is taking advantage of what is anticipated to be a slow tourism summer by studying how people, or the lack thereof, might impact bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. 

Remote cameras will record bear activity when no tourists are visiting the forest

A study of bear activity in Kitasoo-Xai'Xais territory will give researchers a better understanding of how people impact wildlife in the region. (Douglas Neasloss)

The Kitasoo-Xai'Xais First Nation on B.C.'s Central Coast is taking advantage of what is anticipated to be a slow tourism summer, by studying how people, or the lack thereof, impacts bears in the region's forests.

The community of Klemtu, on the Kitasoo-Xai'Xais reserve on Swindle Island, has been closed to non-locals since March, and a message on the Kitasoo-Xai'Xais says it will remain so until further notice. 

For that reason, tourism is non-existent in the area. 

Stewardship director Douglas Neasloss said this makes right now the perfect time to study bears and how the presence of human activity affects them. 

Neasloss says he and his team bumped into a group of nine bears, as they were setting up 40 cameras throughout the forest to record bear movement.

They also came across a male bear, which Neasloss said was unusual for that area. He estimated it to be about 450 kilograms.

"Generally, we just see the mothers and cubs," Neasloss told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

"Those big male bears will come down not at all. It'll be interesting to find out whether there must be a change of behaviour and whether they're going to adjust to having more access to these areas."

The cameras will stay up for another six months, and then will be analyzed by experts. The results of the study are expected to be published in one year.

Study to inform land management

The hope is that information gathered from the study will help inform a management plan for the area. According to the Kitasoo/Xai'xais vision statement, the First Nation is in charge of planning, managing and protecting Kitasoo/Xai'xais lands, waters and resources.

"We're seeing more and more tourists, more general public, more fly fishermen, more hunters," Neasloss said. 

"There's all these different user groups all competing for the same space and no management plans."

Part of that management plan will look at the number of commercial operators that can safely exist in a given area and will look at spatial restrictions in terms of where tourists and user groups can explore. 

Neasloss said it could help develop an approach to seasonal industries, such as cruise ships.

"I definitely think we need to control people, we need to control tourism," Neasloss said. "I just think there needs to be some structure."

With files from Daybreak North