Photo © Carol Monaco/Natural Habitat Adventures

Bear-viewing tours bring in 12 times more money than hunting in western Canada, according to a new study.

As many nations in Africa and around the world have learned, protecting wildlife and inviting travelers to come see them is far more profitable than hunting those animals. The same is proving true in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rain Forest, which is home to the famed spirit, or Kermode, bear.

“While the arguments for and against hunting are many and varied, the economics seem clear: As long as the grizzly, black and Spirit bear populations are robust and well protected, bear viewing is well positioned to continue to expand, bringing more visitors, more jobs, and more economic value,” the report concluded.

The Great Bear Rain Forest lines parts of the central and northern British Columbia coast. WWF and Natural Habitat Adventures offer travelers the opportunity to tour the area on our Spirit Bear Tour.

Genetically speaking, the spirit bear is an all-white version of a black bear and is endemic to this region. The spirit bear is protected from hunting in this region, but the black bear is not. Many conservationists believe hunting of the black bear here should be banned, too, because some black bears carry the spirit bear gene – a genetic mystery to scientists.

The spirit bear also holds a significant place in Native American folklore, and in fact the Coastal First Nations people banned hunting bears altogether in 2012.

Among other findings of the study, which was conducted by the Center for Responsible Travel and Stanford University:

  • Bear tourism brings in $15.1 million vs. $1.2 million for hunting.
  • Bear viewing generates 510 jobs annually vs. only 11 for hunting.
  • Sixty times more people go to British Columbia to observe bears than hunt them.

The study also mentions the need for greater regulation over the tourism viewing economy. This means that a focus on tourism could help add even greater protection for bears within the Great Bear Rain Forest while allowing communities and local government to benefit as well.

Travel to see the Spirit Bear with WWF and NatHab.