'It's ridiculous': B.C. tour operator fined $35K for baiting black bears for customers to view

A B.C. tour company has been fined $35,000 for attracting black bears with food so that customers on jeep and jet ski tours had a better chance of seeing wild animals, according to the B.C. Conservation Service.

Blue River Safari pleaded guilty this week in provincial court to attracting dangerous wildlife after a 2017 investigation by conservation officers caught the company on surveillance cameras baiting black bears.

"Cranberries, peanut butter, anything from the lodge ... I think they even used meatballs," said Insp. Len Butler.

"Basically, the guides would go in and put bait at specific areas and obviously the bears became quite habituated."

Blue River Safari advertises catamaran, jet boat and jeep tours in the backcountry northeast of Clearwater B.C., to view black and grizzly bears.

Prosecutors determined the size of the fine issued to the company based on the amount of money it made offering tours while baiting bears, according to Butler.

Record setting fine

It's the largest fine amount handed to a person or company in B.C. for attracting dangerous wildlife, he added.

"When you start putting that many bears in one area, it is a definite safety concern," Butler said.

"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."

The court ordered the company to create an anti-bear baiting policy and be subject to inspections by conservation officers.