Traveling with any hope of seeing animals in the wild is no more reliable than a game of chance. It is never truly a guaranteed agenda because as much as we may wish to plan for such an encounter, the opportunity to witness life in its natural habitat is largely a game of flipping coins.

I do not consider myself a wildlife photographer but instead, a wildlife opportunist. I am neither a biologist nor an expert in animal behavior. I am an artist with a camera ready to create and document when luck chooses to be on my side.

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This is the result of traveling from one corner of Canada in Prince Edward Island to the opposite side of the country in the K’tzim-a-deen, located 45km north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. This short monograph is a collection of my images that were all created spanning a 4-day window in May 2019.

All images were created under the guidance of local experts that spend their summers watching and monitoring the activity of the bear population. It was their knowledge and zodiac skills that made this possible.


Established in 1994 as Canada’s first and only grizzly bear sanctuary, the entire watershed of the Khutzeymateen, Kateen Rivers, and the foreshore of the Khutzeymateen Inlet are protected. With approximately 60 bears that call this place home, this is the largest concentration of grizzly bears in Canada.

The 445 sq km park is surrounded by steep 2,100-metre tall mountains and shelters an undisturbed estuary along the north coast of British Columbia. It is managed by BC Parks, the Tsimshian Nation, and the Gits’iis tribe.

Protected from hunting and lodging, the park is also limited to a few hundred annual visitors. Only licensed guides are permitted into the estuary and at the time of this writing, your choice of guides was limited to only two. Once you have arrived by floatplane to your floating accommodations, human activity must continue to remain on the water and no person is permitted to set foot on land.


The Grizzly Bear

Identified by a large lump of mussel on the back shoulders, grizzly bears are 8-10 feet and can be more than 270 kilos in weight. Floating alongside them in a zodiac can be difficult to describe the feeling of a large, slow-moving bear that visually dominates the landscape with its existence.

Bears emerge out of hibernation in April and are ready for food. In the Khutzeymateen, bears make their way down to the water’s edge where they can consume up to 100lbs per day of protein-rich Lyngby sedge while waiting for the salmon to arrive in July.

Cubs are born during hibernation and are 3-5 months old by the time they set foot into the world and cubs will remain under the care of the mother for up to 3 years.

With a focus on the sedge, clams, and barnacles at lower tides and salmon later in the summer, the bear’s acknowledgment of our human presence is almost non-existing.


Land by Sea

Any visitors to the Khutzeymateen will need to do so by water. It can be either a 2-hour boat ride from Prince Rupert or a 20-minute flight by floatplane, but once you arrive, you must always stay on the inlet. The boat of choice is a zodiac for its ability to navigate shallow water.

The Khutzeymateen is primarily known for its population of the North American brown bear but is also home to many others including seals, whales, orcas, and eagles.

Mix all of this wilderness with some beautiful light in a relatively small area and the Khutzeymateen becomes a very popular destination for photographers.

Over the time we spent patrolling up and down the long inlet from the estuary all the way to the Alaskan border, there was almost no opportunity or desire to pack the camera away.


Technical Notes

By far the most important piece of equipment for an incredible location like the Khytzeymateen is the zodiac boat and the talented drivers navigating shallow waters. This allows observers to float nearby with the engines powered down and to simply watch from a distance without any risk of creating fear that we might do trudging through by foot. Often very quiet, the sounds of cameras clicking and bears chewing was all you could hear.


Thank you to those who made the effort and took the initiative to create this protected area. The continued effort to ensure animals have a safe place to live away from human activity will create a better future for all.

Thank you to the Wilderness Lodge guides and owners. Jamie Hahn, Megan Baker, Gerren Henry. It was an absolute joy to spend 4 days with you on the zodiacs watching and recording the bears locations and activities.

Thank you to Chef Neil Dias and the 3 meals daily. For a remote and off-the-grid lodge in the middle of a river, you were still able to impress each and every time with top restaurant-quality dishes.

Thank you to Alfie, Monty, Buddy, Sam, Hot Chocolate, Lebowsky, Doze, Skinny Minny, and all the other bears that are yet to be named. We were the guests in your home.

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