Frequently Asked Questions about Grizzly Bear Tours


Are we safe?

Most of the time we view the bears from the safety of the boat, not on the land. We carry bear pepper spray and several VHF radios. We are in radio contact with the other operator in the area and have a good working relationship with their guides. Your guide is trained in First Aid. In case of an accident a plane can be called to fly the injured person out to Campbell River hospital. We haven’t lost anyone yet…

 When is the best time to come and see grizzly bears?

The month of June. The berries are not yet ripe, the bears come down to the beach to roll rocks for eels, crabs and isopods. The fall timing of the salmon run is so variable that it is impossible to know when in August is best. In late August the salmon come and go up stream in response to unpredictable rain events. People come to us with huge expectations, which a pretty hard to fulfill as our wildlife moves in unpredictable manner. We do our best to show you what shows up that day. Our excellent Trip Advisor reviews reflex our success over the years.

How close do we get to the bears?

Provincial Wildlife Branch Bear Viewing Guidelines require that we stay  from the bears 50 meters. This is a distance safe for us and generous to the bears. The bears do wander in closer, and that’s their choice. Most Glendale grizzlies are habituated to people, and as long as we stay outside of their personal comfort zone (120 feet), we are safe and they are unmolested by our presence. Our tours are not bear whispering tours. We consider grizzly bears to be wild animals, wanting to be unmolested as they feed. On some days mothers will park their cubs close to us as defense against attacks by large boars. We stay quiet, and our only movement is the finger on the camera shutter.


Photo courtesy of Mark Plessers and V. de Meerleer of Belgium.

How should we act if a bear appears suddenly close-by?

If a bear appears, stay close in the group. Stand your ground, do not shout or challenge the bear. Do not run away. Look to the side so as not to challenge the bear. Let the bear walk away.  Listen to your guide’s instructions.

Can we get close enough for pictures?

For good pictures bring a camera with at least 300  telephoto lens. At sometime during our viewing, the bears may wander as close as 30 meters if we are quiet and do not move. Our guides try to place the viewing boat for good light conditions, but bear watching is dynamic, with the bears moving around in relation to us. A tripod is too cumbersome in a boat with 12 other people aboard. Bring a monopod which you may be able to whip overboard in several inches of water to stabilize your shot.   Grizzlies are masters at pretending that we are not there. They sometimes give you the bum end view to ignore you. Please do not whistle or shout to get the bear to turn for the camera. The bear may look up, but will very shortly move into the bush. Just be ready for when a good picture presents itself.

Will I get sea sick?

Our tours run in the protected inside waters of the east coast of Vancouver Island, where the waters are calm in the mornings. On our return trip in the afternoon, we do run up against a bump-bump-bump Westerly chop for an hour. We do not have the rolling motion of the open ocean of Vancouver Islands’ West  Coast. Those passengers extremely prone to sea sickness should sit in a back cabin seat or outside at back of the boat, focus on the horizon, stay warm, and pray.

When do we eat?

If you are staying in Telegraph Cove Resorts cabins, we leave at 7am before the Killer Whale Cafe opens(10am), so bring your breakfast fixings from down island or Port McNeill to cook in your room. We provide coffee, tea, muffins & yogurt in the morning on the boat. Lunch is a sandwich spread where we have sliced up the tomatoes and you make your sandwich.

We eat lunch after our morning viewing experience, out on the float away from the bears. Eating in the bear viewing area is not bear friendly. We cannot have these bears associating the smell of people with the smell of human food. There are 6 fish farms, several logging camps and wilderness fishing lodges, family and summer homes within the home range of these grizzlies. People working and living in the area will have to deal with human food conditioned bears. Food conditioned bears are often shot because they  aggressively seek out human food or garbage.


Glendale Cove lunch setting.

Do you guarantee sightings?

No. This is a wildlife tour, not a trip to the zoo. We would like to be able to book an appointment with the bears, but they sometimes do not show up.   In 2012 we  missed on 7 tours. In 2013 we  missed 5 times. Naturally our guests on these tours were very disappointed. Our guides make their best effort to show you what shows up. But if you have travelled a long ways to see bears, please book multiple days with us, with a day in between to see whales, or go out with other operators as well in Smiths Inlet (Great Bear Nature Tours) or Bute Inlet to assure yourself of seeing a bear. If you do not see a bear on your trip, we will issue you a “rain check” for a future trip with us. Valid for a lifetime, non-transferable, no cash value. Please come back in June. Avoid coming on the 3rd day after the half-moon.

What should we wear?

For the water taxi trip dress warmly in layers, the boat has a heater but it can be cold in the viewing skiff watching the bears. Please avoid using perfumes or after shave lotions. Hats are good, sitting quietly in the open viewing boat can be hot. Wind proof jackets of a green, black, or blue colour are preferred, Got a red coat? don’t worry about it. Please bring your own water bottle.

What kind of a boat do we go in?

To run the 2 hours to the grizzly bear hot spot we are using our 12 passenger aluminum water taxis, safe and intimate. Both boats have a toilet. Sit inside in comfort, or outside in the back deck fresh air!


“Kermode” bear-viewing boat.


“Silver Bear” bear viewing boat.

In busy times in August we borrow an extra water taxi that has a porta-potty, so we stop along the way at marine fuel docks that have washroom facilities.

Some days on the way up to the grizzly bear hotspot we find bears before we get there, please help your guide spot bears. Then we view from the big boat.

On some days when we get there bears are close to the lunch float:

In the viewing skiff we sit quietly to view,  click and enjoy the bears.

Watching Bella snooze while her cubs munch sedge:

Do we go to viewing stands?

No. We no longer go to viewing stands. If you want a viewing stand tour, please contact Knight Inlet Lodge,  Sailcone Wilderness in Knight Inlet.   For Bute Inlet in September (only) try Campbell River Whale Watching, Discovery Marine Safaris or Aboriginal Journeys’ who all operate out of Campbell River.

What kind of a boat do we view the bears from?

Our large flat bottom viewing skiffs are former herring fishing boats modified for wildlife viewing in shallow estuaries.

 Why do we leave so early in the morning?

We depart early because we actually want you to see a bear! Bears are hungry in the morning and come out of the bush where we can see them. But in September we vary our departure time in tune with the daily tides.

How can we get to Telegraph Cove?

Click to find out how to get to where the Grizzly Bear Tours leave from, Telegraph Cove, British Columbia.


 

We Make Our Best Effort to Follow this Code of Practice:

A)  Operators and the Environment:

  1. Strengthen the conservation effort for and enhance the natural integrity of
    places visited.
  2. We contribute financially or in kind, to local environmental protection associations
    and appropriate researcher projects.
  3. We abide by the 50 meter rule for viewing  and regulations as established for the
    protection of grizzly bears and their  habitat.
  4. We avoid disturbing or encouraging the disturbance of wildlife or wildlife habitats.
  5. We are aware of our footprint: we keep vehicles, hiking, boats, aircraft
    to designated roads,  trails, flight paths, schedules.
  6. We are efficient in the use of natural resources (water, fuels, foods).
  7. We ensure waste disposal has minimal environmental and aesthetic impact.
  8. We recycle beverage containers and use washable cups and lunch plates.
  9. We commit to the principle of Best Practices but not at the expense of the
    environment.
  10. We support other companies that have and practice a conservation/recycling ethic.

B)  Operators Advocacy and Support:

  1. We keep abreast of current political and environmental issues, particularly in the
    local area.
  2. We network with other stakeholders; particularly in the local area, to keep each other
    informed of developments and encourage the use of this Ecotour Operators
    Code of Practice.

C)  Staff and Client Relations:

14.        We support advanced education/training for guides, heritage interpreters, other
staff and managers.

15.        We employ adventure guides and heritage interpreters who are well versed with and
respectful of  local cultures and environments.

16.        We provide clients with the appropriate verbal and written education and guidance

to enhance their appreciation and respect for the natural and cultural history
of the areas visited.

17.        We maximize the quality of experience for hosts and guests.

18.        We ensure truth in advertising, press releases, discussions and interpretations.

D)  Community Responsibilities:

19.        Respect the sensitivities, values, traditions, practices and protocols of other cultures.

20.        Comply with national, provincial and association safety standards.

21.        Buy and use locally produced goods, foods, equipment that benefits the local

community, but do not buy goods made from threatened or endangered species.

22.       Follow the ideal of the Precautionary Principle:  When in doubt – Don’t!

What is the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear?

A fun site to answer this question is at: http://www.fwp.state.mt.us/bearid/ and it has some great photos too.