Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary
The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary (K’tzim-a-deen) comprises 44,300 hectares of protected land. It is jointly managed by British Columbia Parks, the Coast Tsimshian First Nation, and the Gitsi’is Tribe . The area is protected to preserve an important habitat for the grizzly bear population and an area of significant cultural importance. The Khutzeymateen is located 45 km northwest of Prince Rupert, BC and is accessible by boat or floatplane .
The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary comprises Khutzeymateen Provincial Park, Khutzeymateen Inlet Conservency, and Khutzeymateen Inlet West Conservancy. The provincial park was established in 1994 as a Class A provincial park. It was the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for the preservation of grizzly bears . As a class A provincial park, conservation in the park is prioritized over human use. In 2008, the Inlet and Inlet West Conservancy were established to provide further protection to the area . Visitor access is restricted to a fixed number of permits per year and access to the river estuary is only permitted with a guide or for research purposes .
Key Strategies for Conservation
Maintain flora and fauna: Flora and fauna in the protected area are maintained for its inherent value to the environment as well as its traditional value to the Coast Tsimshian Nation. Inventories and assessments are conducted for culturally important resources and sensitive species or species at risk, and protective measures are implemented when necessary. Protective measures include ecological restoration, educational initiatives, supporting water quality monitoring, and many more .
Protect plant and animal species: The protected areas serve as a habitat for significant plant and animal species. The Khutzeymateen watershed is an important spawning location for multiple species of salmon. The shoreline and estuary are of high biological importance for waterfowl, waterbirds, pacific salmon, salmonid stocks, and grizzly bears. The diversity of nutrient-rich forbs and sedges contribute to the health of the grizzly bear habitat. Along with grizzly bears, the area is an important habitat for black bears and mountain goats .
Protect special features of the environment: The Khutzeymateen encompasses many special environmental features including multiple biogeoclimatic subzones and the Crow Lagoon. The Crow Lagoon is a special feature because it protects what is thought to be a volcanic cone and is also the source of a story told by Coast Tsimshian elders. Special feature zones have restricted activities and facilities so as to maintain the integrity of the sites .
Protect Coast Tsimshian cultural uses: The Khutzeymateen is an important area for the Coast Tsimshian Nation for social, ceremonial, cultural, and economic purposes. The area has historically been used for harvesting, gathering, and hunting and is still used for those purposes today. The Gitsi’is do not hunt Grizzly bears, believing that “the soul of a person that dies may reincarnate into the Grizzly bear” [2, pg. 11]. Multiple archaeological sites have also been discovered in the Khutzeymateen protected areas .
Provide controlled Grizzly Bear viewing: Standards of practice have been implemented within the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Grizzly bear viewing is controlled by training viewing guides in bear behaviour, regulating viewing distances and number of viewing groups, regulating access to the park, and improving education surrounding safe interactions with and conservation of Grizzly bears .
Why the Khutzeymateen?
The Khutzeymateen was designated as a protected area for grizzly bears because of the rich and diverse habitat, abundant food sources, and cultural importance for the Coast Tsimshian Nation . The Khutzeymateen is home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in Canada . Grizzly bears require a large home range within a functional ecosystem that will provide them with a variety of food sources and prey availability . The Khutzeymateen estuary provides a vital source of salmon for Grizzly bears as well as mussels and other molluscs on which to forage. The diverse topography of the park also provides an important habitat for shore birds, aquatic animals, and other flora and fauna .