Bear Watching in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

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On British Columbia’s far north coast, lies the Khutzeymateen: “Valley of the Grizzly”. With an abundance of wildlife, the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is the first area in Canada to be protected and has the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America. I have seen pictures of amazing wildlife in this valley but need to experience this for myself. So I head to the vibrant town of Prince Rupert and upon arrival I walk down to Cow Bay to book a trip with Prince Rupert Adventure Tours. They ensure me that I’m in for a stunning wildlife display!

The docks in Prince Rupert, British Columbia

The fellow guests and myself board a 22 metre (72 foot) boat that is custom built for adventure tours. We cruise North through Chatham Sound on route to the Khutzeymateen. The captain and staff tell stories about the historic First Nation villages and we learn about the diverse marine environment. Soon into the journey we see eagles, seals and even a pod of Orcas. So far off to a great wildlife start!

Bald eagle flying en route to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

The boat enters into the Khutzeymateen Valley where rugged coastal mountains tower high and old growth temperate rainforests embrace our presences. Suddenly everyone is silent and as the boat peacefully glides thought the inlet’s pristine waters, the staff hands us binoculars. This isn’t one of those tours where they do all the work for you. You need to earn your keep, team up with other guests and scan the shorelines to spot a wild grizzly.

Group of people looking for wildlife from a boat in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.

After a while we come to the end of the inlet and turn around, but no spotting yet? I chat with the captain and he senses concern in my voice. He let’s me know that I needn’t worry as it’s peak season for sightings and it’s just a matter of time. So I get back out on deck and eagerly continue to scan. Then before you know it someone has made the first Grizzly spotting and it’s an adult male and female digging in the sand by water’s edge. We slowly get closer and view the bears safely without disturbing them. The massive forearms on the male Grizzly make me appreciate more then ever the immense power of these animals.

Two adult grizzly bears on the shore in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.

Then there is another spotting across the inlet. The boat changes course and I hear a guest whisper “Awwa, a mama and her cubs”. We then watch the cute cubs play fight with each other as mama munches on long green grass.

A mother grizzly bear and two cubs in the long grass in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.

The cubs curiously look at us once in a while and stand on their hind legs but for the most part carry on like we weren’t there. A truly intimate wildlife experience in the “Valley of the Grizzly”.

Gizzly Mama & Cub

Trip tip: May, June, & July are peak season to see Grizzly Bears in the Khutzeymateen.