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Like It or Not, Even Wildlife-Focused Ecotourism Affects Wild Animals – Hakai Magazine

April 30, 2024

Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world visit British Columbia’s coastal rivers in search of an exciting up-close experience with a grizzly bear. That is, every year except 2020, as COVID-19 lockdowns closed most of the province’s ecotourism industry. The sudden absence of tourists here and around the world gave scientists an unprecedented opportunity to study our influence on wild spaces. And according to two recent studies, while people certainly enjoy watching bears, grizzlies don’t necessarily like being watched.

One of the studies, led by Monica Short, a graduate student in applied conservation at British Columbia’s University of Victoria, shows that in the salmon-bearing Khutze River watershed on British Columbia’s central coast, the resumption of commercial bear-viewing in 2021 caused grizzly activity to decrease and some people-shy bears to avoid prime fishing sites.

“It was really fascinating to see how sensitive these bears can be to our activity,” Short says.

Partnering with the Kitasoo Xai’xais Stewardship Authority, Short and her colleagues set up motion-sensing trail cameras across five square kilometers along the Khutze River to track bear activity from July to September 2020—when tourism was banned—and again in 2021 after commercial bear-viewing reopened.

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