Cameras have been deployed throughout the territory to study the behaviour of bears in the area. (Photo credit, Cael Cook)

Cameras have been deployed throughout the territory to study the behaviour of bears in the area. (Photo credit, Cael Cook)

COVID-19 gives B.C. First Nation rare chance to examine tourism’s impact on grizzly bears

With 40 infrared cameras deployed in Kitasoo-Xai’Xais territory, research will help develop tourism plan with least impact on bears

COVID-19 continues to be tough on people. But it might be doing good things for the grizzly bears of B.C.’s central coast.

A positive outcome of the COVID-19 shutdown for the Klemtu-based Kitasoo-Xai’Xais First Nation, was the opportunity to study tourism’s impact on the grizzly bears in their region.

The Kitasoo-Xai’Xais reserve has maintained a shutdown since the pandemic began and will continue to do so until further notice. This gave the community the perfect chance to invest in a research program that could be conducted only in the absence of tourists.

Dr. Christina Service, the lead scientist in charge of the project with the Resource Stewardship Department of the Kitasoo-Xai’Xai Nation, was glad that they mobilized really quickly when the situation presented itself and deployed 40 infrared cameras which are triggered when the animals walk by.

“Since we’re not going to have tourism in the territory this year, it provided a remarkably unique situation where we could essentially study and take baseline conditions to see what these bears will do in the absence of tourism.”

The cameras will be taken down in October and the recordings will be used to analyze behaviour patterns and to get a sense of how the bears choose to spend their time in the absence of humans. The process will be repeated and cameras will be re-installed again in spring 2021, when hopefully tourism activity will have resumed again.

The results will then be compared to arrive at a sustainable management plan for a conservation-based economy for the community, said Service.

“So we’re looking at factors like ‘what areas should humans be restricted to that have the least impact on bears?’ Or, ‘what time of the day does tourism heavily impact bears?’ There will definitely be some interesting patterns to see.”

Since the research is spread over two years, Service said it will be a while before they have concrete answers. But the study will help provide the “best available information” to formulate a management plan.

The First Nation has seen increased pressure from tourism since the Great Bear Rainforest was established and visitors started coming to the territory to learn more. And though tourism opportunities are welcomed, the First Nation also indicated its desire to conserve the bears in their region.

Service commended the Kitasoo-Xai’Xais First Nation for their “interest, capacity and desire” to invest in such a research program, especially at a time when there’s so much uncertainty with the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

CoronavirusEnvironment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Comox town hall. Black Press file photo
Comox set to apply for two infrastructure grants

Sanitary sewer, sidewalk extension in the town’s plans

The number of reported assaults in Courtenay jumped from 302 in 2019 to 364 in 2020. File photo
Assaults up in Courtenay, according to police statistics

The number of assaults increased significantly in Courtenay from 2019 to 2020,… Continue reading

Sawyer, a northern saw-whet owl that became synonymous with Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, passed away peacefully over the weekend. Sawyer would make numerous public appearances with MARS staff in and around the Comox Valley and Campbell River. Photo supplied.
Popular MARS ambassador owl dies

Submitted MARS Wildlife Rescue has lost one of its mightiest ambassadors. Tiny… Continue reading

442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from 19 Wing Comox assisted in helping an injured hiker down from the top of Mt. Benson near Nanaimo Jan. 23. Photo by 19 Wing Comox
With video: 442 Squadron assists mid-Island mountain rescue

The crew on the Buffalo hand-launched 15 flares

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
In <em>Forbidden Reel</em>, Afghan-Canadian director Ariel Nasr crafts a thrilling and utterly original story of modern Afghanistan. Photo supplied
Director crafts thrilling, original story of modern Afghanistan

For most of us, Afghanistan is not synonymous with film culture. Ariel… Continue reading

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read