Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen

In Images, News & Stuff, Postcards From..., Travel, Wilderness by David37 Comments

Ten years ago, I got off a de Havilland Beaver, the quintessential bush plane of the Canadian north, and stepped into the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary for the first time—and it was love at first sight. The long inlet not far from the border with Alaska is flanked by mountains and cliffs, all covered in evergreens draped with flowing moss, and ends in an estuary that’s impossibly green and home to grizzly bears safe from the guns of hunters.

If you’ve never seen my monograph, KHUTZEYMATEEN, I invite you to click here to download a free copy as a thank you for being part of what I do. That monograph represents older work, and I returned to the Khutzeymateen to continue that body of photographs and be reunited with the bears I’ve come to have such affection for.

Coming home with thousands of images, it could be a while before I put anything out that’s more formal, but while I dig out from the trip, the laundry, the gear to clean, and the long edit ahead of me, I thought I’d send a quick note to show you a few of my favourites from this trip.

I’m now in the process of putting together a bear trip for 2025 in the Chilcotin region and working on another visit to the Khutzeymateen, though I’m not sure when that will happen. The former will have room for 11 people; the latter, perhaps only 6. So now’s a good chance to remind you that if you want to be notified of future trips, the best place to do that is to sign up at

Sorry this one is so short (ha! I bet you didn’t think it was possible), but I’m hoping the pictures will do the talking for me this time.

Thanks for joining me and supporting my work. Don’t forget to download your copy of my older (but still beautiful, if I do say so myself) Khutzeymateen monograph here.


  1. thank you David for your information, your encouragement to those that support you and your wonderful eye. Nature is so darned amazing and you capture her in all her glory. Thank you for sharing you

  2. Hello David as all have said before me they are great photos which I thank you for sharing with all of us. My favourite is the last one of the bear in the water. That to me is a wall hanger. I would love to try to paint that one in Pastel with your kind permission. Regards Ron.

    1. Author

      You have my permission, Ron. Paint away. Thank you for asking! Enjoy!

  3. Your bear photos are brilliant David and it’s great to hear that you’re getting out into the wilds again and you’re becoming more and more confident with your new leg. You’re a very inspiring man. I would love to join you in your bear trip but as I live in Australia it’s a bit too far away. Keep the photos and tips etc coming. I love them all. Heather

  4. Hi David, your photos leave me with a sense of wonder and gladness. Thank you kind sir.

  5. What a wonderful way to start the week – looking at your stunning bear photographs. Thank you for sharing your talent and vision with us. As always, you inspire.

  6. I especially loved the one of the Mama Bear and her cub!
    We don’t have bears here in South Africa, so I really enjoy seeing your beautiful images and following your travels.

  7. Great photos, of course, and loved your answer to Larry Bartasavich. Hope I’ll have a chance to travel & photograph with you one of these days. (I filled in the info about my website, but it’s very much a work-in-progress. Still have a lot to learn!)

  8. David
    Thank you so much for sharing these great pictures of the bears. They are awesome.

  9. Awesome images of the bears David. I lived in Bella Coola for a few years in the early 1990’s and have fond memories of those years traveling the coast between Bella Coola and Rupert; and, of driving across the Chilcotin to head north or south from William’s Lake. I miss that ethereal beauty of the estuary that your images capture in the backgrounds…albeit a different estuary the moods are the same. Your images bring me some fond nostalgia for those years. Thanks

  10. Always love wandering through you bear photos, David. So wild, carefree, beautiful, awesome, amazing…I could keep going on and on 😉 Thanks so much for sharing their world with us.

  11. Wow. Wow, wow, wow.

    For me, some of the best, most evocative shots of brown bears that I’ve ever seen. I think you’ve managed to capture them in a unique, emotional way. Well seen!

    Also glad to see you out and about, what with your recent challenges. Looks like things are going well!

    Now to sign up for the Adventure List….

    1. Author

      Thank you for that Gary, and yes! Things are going well. The challenge of doing difficult things on my prosthetic leg are getting fewer and fewer, less and less difficult all the time. Can’t wait for the next adventure which (assuming the provincial government lets me keep my driver’s license because of all this) is an overland trip to the arctic ocean with a stop in Chilcotin to photograph bears on the way home. All is well!

  12. What an adventure you just completed, I wish that I had been there to witness these gorgeous bears and your photography

  13. Those bears are very thin. Were pictures taken in the sprring?

    1. Just two weeks ago. The bears had only been out of a den for a month or two at most.

    2. I loved reading about your trip & seeing the beautiful photos you captured David. Thanks so much for sharing over the years. & I wish you well adjusting to your new leg so you will have an easier time getting around & capturing all that beauty.
      Wishing you well.
      Diane Grenier
      White Rock, BC Canada

      1. I’d love to join you but unfortunately I have an extremely bad back which limits my walking etc.

      2. Author

        Thank you for that, Diane. The new leg is doing just great and walking now feels better than it did before. Still needs a while before I’m walking confidently on slippery rocks but might not be long before I’m back to rock climbing and some of my pre-accident activities!

  14. Oh how I’d love to join you on one of these adventures. but at 94, I think those kinds of trips are over and I might be a drag to you and the group. So I will enjoy the photos and not get them myself.

    1. Author

      I understand the feeling a little, Marion. My mother is finally admitting her own mobility challenges but she still dreams of visiting otters and bears! I do my best to help her live those dreams vicariously.

  15. Thanks for sharing these, David.
    Your photos convey the magnificence , and vulnerability, of these incredible animals!

    1. Author

      The honour is mine, Mary Ellen. Thank you for giving me someone to share them with.

  16. David,

    Thanks for sharing your photos. I’m curious about the practicals of making trips like this. Where do you stay? A campground in a tent? A cabin? How do you prepare meals? What camera gear do you bring, and how do you pack it all? Do the animals ignore you, or do they show curiosity about you and what you’re doing? Are you ever afraid being in such remote locations?

    Beyond the practicals, do you think of these photography centric travels as contemplative experiences? Do you have feelings, peace perhaps, unlike what you feel elsewhere? What do think about when you gaze into the sky at night away from light pollution and can see deep into the heavens?

    How has your recent amputation affected your travels?

    I’m an old man and making a trip to visit remote natural sites is way beyond my physical capabilities or what I could afford as well! So, it’s through someone like you that I can vicariously do so. Please tell us more. Maybe there’s a book idea somewhere in my questions.

    1. Author

      On this trip specifically there are only 2 ways to spend time with the bears in the estuary – only 2 outfitters are licensed to access the estruary: Ocean Light Adventures and The Khutzeymateen Lodge. Both easily found on Google. I’ve been going with Ocean Light Adventures for years. A short float plane from Prince Rupert to the inlet, land on the water and get picked up by zodiac, and transfered to a 60-foot motor yacht. Accomodations are on board, food is excellent. Daily excursions to visit the bears, most of whom are very comfortable with our presence, and those that aren’t will simply walk away. Many of them are quite curious and will approach you if you stay quiet and gentle with your voice and movements.

      Gear is simple: lots of rain gear, a good dry bag, a couple cameras and lenses from 24mm to 600, though I find a 300mm with a 2x convertor more versatile as all photography is done from the boat and there are luggage restrictions on the plane in and out of the inlet. It’s a wonderful time, with magical encounters. My group was only 6 photographers, all of us friends from other trips together.

      Your last questions are the best. I do these trips because of the peace. To be re-grounded. I do it for the wonder. The last big trip before this one was to the west coast of Vancouver Island and to be so remote, so far from the nearest cell signal, and light pollution was amazing. The stars are brighter. We had one night of aurora borealis and daily wolf sightings. We sat in the rain for hours on end and it felt both breath-taking and like I was breathing right for the first time in a while.

      The amputation was just over a year ago and is finally feeling normal. I’m much more used to the prosthetic leg, I walk well and with confidence most of the time. It’s comfortable and I’m beginning to do things I couldn’t have done with my OEM leg and foot. It was all a bit of a (well-informed) gamble but it has paid off beautifully. And the hardware is pretty cool. 🙂

      Thanks for that. Larry.

  17. Hi David! any chance you are planning a spirit bear trip in 2025? I have tried 4 times to see a spirit bear and no luck yet. Loving your Shoot what it feels like course too!

    1. Author

      HI Joy, I doubt it. I’m doing my research and looking into my options. What I want is a very small group with exclusive access to the bears and it’s hard to find that as the bears become more popular. As more people visit it becomes less appealing to me. But I’m looking into it. Likely 2026 at this point, if it happens. Would love to see them again.

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