A tour company has been fined $35,000 for baiting black bears with food so customers on jeep and jet ski tours had better chances of seeing them in the wild.
This week, tour operators at Blue River Safari in British Columbia, Canada, pleaded guilty to the charge of attracting dangerous wildlife following an investigation by conservation officers which began in 2017.
Surveillance footage had captured the company using various foods – including cranberries, peanut butter and meatballs – to attract the bears, giving tourists on jeep and jet ski tours a better look.
This fine is reportedly the highest ever recorded in a British Columbia courtroom for the offence of using bait to attract dangerous wildlife. The size of the fine was based on the amount of money made by conducting tours while baiting the bears.
According to court documents obtained by City News 1130, tour operators Russell and Debra Critchlow were each ordered to give $17,400 to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
The brother and sister team were also handed additional fines which amounted to $200. Going forward, Blue River Safari will need to implement an anti-bear baiting policy and will be required to undergo wildlife inspections.
Blue River Safari offers catamaran, jet boat and jeep tours in the northeast of Clearwater British Columbia, giving opportunities to tourists to view black and grizzly bears.
Speaking about how Blue River Safari baited the bears, Inspector Len Butler told CBC News:
Cranberries, peanut butter, anything from the lodge … I think they even used meatballs,
Basically, the guides would go in and put bait at specific areas and obviously the bears became quite habituated.
Inspector Butler continued:
When you start putting that many bears in one area, it is a definite safety concern,
At the end of the day it’s ridiculous to think that that’s what you want to do to just make some money. That’s not really helping other people that like to recreate in the same area.
— BC CO Service (@_BCCOS) November 25, 2019
According to a statement released by British Columbia’s Conservation Officer Service:
Unlawful practices by wildlife tour companies negatively impact the reputation of legitimate industry in B.C.
Wildlife tour operators have a responsibility to ensure they conduct business in a lawful manner that is safe for clients, staff and the public.
The primary concern of the COS is public safety. Illegally feeding or placing attractants to lure dangerous wildlife, such as bears, is an extremely dangerous activity.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.