I am a photographer and marketing director for an eco-tourism company that specializes in bear viewing. Our guests come from B.C., across Canada and around the world to see, learn about and photograph bears. These are well-educated people who take two-to-four trips each year and search out areas to view wildlife in places where wildlife are respected and cared for. They do not want to visit communities that use lethal force to “manage” wildlife.
In addition to their weeklong tours with us, our guests often plan driving tours throughout B.C., including the Kootenays, staying at hotels, B&Bs, eating local food, shopping and taking in local events. In anticipation for their trip with us, several groups of our guests looked into places like Whistler, Salmon Arm and Nelson, to name a few. When they read about the killing of bears in these communities, they changed their mind. They said it is disingenuous that Destination BC uses slogans like “Super Natural British Columbia” or “Where Nature is Nurtured.”
Walking our talk is truly integral to the success of our tourism companies and the businesses and towns that depend on tourism. Our integrity is compromised when we invite tourists to see bears and then allow the bears to be killed under the guise of wildlife management.
The truth is that the bears are not the problem. Ignorance, fear and misinformation are the problem, but knowledge and respect can make a difference for both community members and the bears. When there is a municipal government that cares about the bears and other wildlife, things change, as has been the case in the Village of Lions Bay. Their bears are safe and when the bears are safe, so are the community members.
I would certainly be sad to hear about Nelson having another bad year where more bears are killed, and more tourism is lost as a result.