Animals & Money: the budding bear-viewing industry

Carol Vinzant

Last week I was up in New Brunswick, Canada and got a chance to try out a novel bear-viewing attraction. At the Little, Big Bear Safari, hunting guide, Richard Goguen has built a tower on his family land to watch black bears. The success of the operation makes me think that bear-viewing has some future as a way people in rural areas can make money off bears without hunting them -- as long as a few safety concerns are covered.

Goguen built a road into land that once belonged to his grandfather in Acadieville, in northeast New Brunswick, about 150 miles east of Maine. In the late '90s Richard worked for a season guiding American bear hunters, but didn't like the killing. One day he took a hunter who had already been successful out just to take pictures of bear and moose. Both had more fun doing that than hunting and Richard decided then he wanted to start a bear-viewing operation.

Richard built a trial six-person tower a decade ago, then a 15-person giant tree house in 2000. Having to turn people away, he expanded again last year to a two-story, two-staircase, wood and metal mesh tower that includes a wood-burning stove. They offer the tour every night and have his friendly forest ranger neighbors fill in when he wants a night off.

Richard and his wife Vivienne, a multi-lingual Acadian couple, get busloads of German tourists and visitors from all over the world. The neighbors are proud so many people come to see their natural wonder.