All forms of recreation and tourism, including wildlife viewing, have the potential to alter wildlife habitat, behavior, survival, and/or reproductive success. The increasing number of visitors pursuing bear-viewing activities in coastal British Columbia, Canada, and Alaska, United States, has led to a number of studies assessing the impact of wildlife viewing on bear behavior. This study, the first to assess the impact of boat-based bear viewing in this region, used focal sampling to measure bear activity budgets in the absence and presence of nonresearch bear-viewing vessels. We found that: (1) some grizzly bears were clearly tolerant of wildlife viewing activities while others were not; (2) individual variation of bears' response to tourists was significant, introducing considerable uncertainty in attempting to assess medium- to long-term impacts of wildlife viewing; (3) males were rarely observed outside of the mating season, suggesting females (especially those with cubs) may use viewing areas as refuges from male grizzly bears; and (4) overt reaction distances varied greatly, suggesting that one appropriate management option may be to ensure boat captains can recognize potential displacement behavior in bears to avoid affecting subject animals. Some of the uncertainty arising from the biological research could be tempered by examining the social perspective of bear viewing tours to create an appropriate management plan for the K'tzim-a-deen Inlet Conservancy.
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Vol. 35 • No. 3