Canada’s Khutzeymateen

Puts the wild in wilderness

Khutzeymateen grizzly / photo by david buston

There’s nothing like watching a grizzly do its thing on Canada’s wild northwest coast. Doing what bears do and have done for thousands of years.

They’re eating sedge grass that grows thick and rich along the ocean’s edge – swiping at it with powerful paws and wolfing it noisily back. (They’ll do this through summer until the salmon run in early fall.)

They’re rearing up and leaning against ancient cedar trees to scratch their backs – swaying to and fro like shaggy hula dancers with big, swinging bellies.

And they’re cooling off in salty waters, rolling and floating – the surprisingly graceful swimmers that they are – before hoisting their enormous wet frames back onto shore and strolling lazily through fields of Indian paintbrush.

What I saw during my visits to the Khutzeymateen – one of Canada’s only protected wild grizzly bear sanctuaries – changed me and my view of the Canadian wilds forever.

As a result, I tell everyone I know about “The Khutz” – named after a local Tsimpshian word for “place of bear and salmon” and located along Canada’s northwest coast not far from Prince Rupert, B.C.

Jeff Gailus – award-winning writer, environmental activist and author of The Grizzly Manifesto – gets it.

Gailus will argue there’s no better way to understand the importance of protecting these vulnerable animals – once said to put the “wild in wilderness” – than to observe them in their own home.

“Anyone who has watched grizzlies live their lives – running down a bison calf for breakfast, plucking juicy berries with tender lips for supper, making love for days on end before moving on to other pastures – cannot help but see ourselves in their eyes,” wrote Gailus recently in an e-mail.

For sure, heading into this remote region of Canada – along with an informed tour guide like Doug Davis from Prince Rupert Adventure Tours (who I highly recommend) – was a thrilling adventure.

What remains, on the other hand, is so much bigger.

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  1. Linda commented:

    Great article and I’ve been lucky enough to have been to the Khutzeymateem. While in Prince Rupert, fondly known as “Rupert”, visit the Cow Bay section of town with its trendy shops and restaurants. Seek out the Cow Bay Cafe for fine dining and a unique ambiance by the sea. A visit to the Museum of Northern B.C. is a definite must.


  2. Debbie Davis commented:

    Thank you for the story, it is great. Doug has been soooo busy, running
    boats, fixing boats, but he is still enjoying watching bears and taking
    pictures. Recently, he and his passengers saw a Momma and
    Baby grizzly bear nursing. This was a once in a lifetime for Doug and he said it
    brought tears to half of the passengers as they watched. One lady said to
    Elaine, who was working on the boat, that it was like climbing Mt. Everest
    together, watching this moment.

    Thanks for thinking of us up here in rainy Prince Rupert.

    Best regards,

    Debbie and Doug Davis
    Prince Rupert Adventure Tours
    West Coast Launch Ltd.
    C2 – 215 Cow Bay Road
    Prince Rupert, BC, V8J 3P6
    1-800-201-8377 Toll Free


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