Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is the first and only grizzly bear sanctuary in Canada, established in August 1994 in recognition of the large bear population in this region, the west coast of northern British Columbia, northeast of Prince Rupert.
Khutzeymateen takes its name from the Tsimshian First Nations word that means sheltered place of fish and bears. The park protects a population of approximately 50 grizzly bears, some of which are estimated to weigh around 400 kgs (850 pounds). The protection of the dwindling grizzly bear population in British Columbia is vital, as the loss of their natural habitat continues to threaten their survival.
In addition to protecting grizzly bears, their habitat, and the ecosystem in which they live, the park also represents the first undisturbed estuary of its size to be protected along the north coast of BC. The topography of this land and marine sanctuary is diverse, with rugged peaks towering to 2,100 metres above a valley of wetlands, old-growth temperate rainforests, and a large estuary.
The park encompasses the watershed of the Khutzeymateen River. The area has long been an important hunting and fishing site for First Nations people, notably the Gitsiis, one of the nine tribes making up the Allied Tsimshian Tribes. The park was created in partnership with the Gitsiis people and is managed jointly with BC Parks and the Tsimshian Tribal Council.
As the 44,300-hectare Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is a protected area, human activity is not encouraged. However, controlled viewing is permitted, although access is only by boat and floatplane. Land access is prohibited within the sanctuary.
Fishing, hunting and camping are prohibited in the sanctuary, and angling and jet boating are prohibited on the Khutzeymateen River and tributaries. All visitors must register at the ranger station near the Khutzeymateen River estuary.
Viewpoints look over the estuary and shoreline, and offer a chance to glimpse the black bears, mountain goats, martens, wolverines, wolves, porcupines, river otters, beavers, and harbour seals that share the sanctuary with the grizzlies.
For a closer look, authorized groups with professional guides are allowed to enter the estuary. All guided tours must be with one of the licenced guides permitted in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary. Overnight anchorage is permitted on the Khutzeymateen Inlet, but be aware of the drastic tides, particularly in the estuary. Unguided entry into the river estuary is not permitted, and disembarking your vessel is prohibited unless accompanied by a Park Ranger or approved guide.
Guided multi-day trips to Khutzeymateen allow significant time to be spent ashore in one of the world’s premier locations for viewing grizzly bears. In the evenings, you can enjoy the comforts of home aboard your charter vessel. These trips provide a wonderful combination of wildlife viewing, nature photography, and coastal exploration of BC’s wilderness.
The sanctuary is jointly managed by the province of British Columbia and the Tsimshian Nation. All guided tours must be with a permitted guide. Call the Prince Rupert Visitor Centre for information at 1-800-667-994 or 250-624-5637.
The Khutzeymateen Inlet Conservancy is located adjacent to Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Khutzeymateen Inlet contains a number of locally important salmon bearing streams, key intertidal areas, and areas of First Nations traditional use.
Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is located 28 miles (45 km) northeast of Prince Rupert, in the Western Kitimat Range of the Coast Mountains. Access to the sanctuary is by boat out of Prince Rupert, or by air from the nearest major towns of Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat.
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