Fireworks fizzle for this year's Wildlights

They bother the bears and are too expensive

Kamloops Daily News
December 19, 2012 01:00 AM

The B.C. Wildlife Park isn't setting off fireworks during this year's Wildlights event because it bothers the bears.

It's also expensive, especially since the park could only afford to have a fireworks show once a day, said executive director Glenn Grant.

Instead, the park is opting for a laser light show with several performances a day that doesn't seem to disturb the park's permanent residents.

The park did use family fireworks, with limited height and less noise than those used for events like Canada Day in Riverside Park, for a couple of years, he said.

But last year, when the grizzly bear cubs were moved into a big enclosure closer to the amphitheatre, they showed signs of the fireworks irritating them, he said.

"We always made sure that our animals came first. When we did a little test run (we have animal care staff at all the enclosures), these two cubs showed they didn't mind the noise but they didn't like the light," said Grant.

"They showed quick movements, or startling and running. There's a potential for them to get injured."

The old grizzlies who used to inhabit the enclosure didn't react to the fireworks, he said.

The other reason for nixing the fireworks was economic, he said.

"It's also costly. You can only do one show a day. We were looking at doing something different. We did a little pyrotechnics last year but not a lot," said Grant.

"We thought, we can do a lot more for $12,000 than just light a match to money."

He's heard an animal-rights advocate in Vancouver has been raising concerns about the fireworks at Wildlights. It's the same man who wants to release Clover the Kermode bear into the wild.

Clover isn't anywhere near the amphitheatre. He's in a concrete hibernation den in the back of the park, he said.

The park has had a tough year, financially, with the wet spring and summer deterring visitors. When the weather did improve, people headed to the lake to soak it up.

"We're under tons of financial pressure. This year we're probably going to lose money. Our attendance is down from last year," said Grant. "We're an outdoor attraction. We go as the weather goes."

The park gets 24 per cent of its annual revenue from the City. The rest comes from admissions and donations.

When the park is busy, like now, it has 32 staff - 13 are full-time, the rest are part-time. When Wildlights ends in a couple of weeks, staff will drop down to 15 or 20.

"We have a plan to develop a reserve fund, but we haven't been able to build that up in the last few years," he said.

Whatever is tried in the future to attract visitors, fireworks are not likely to be part of it, he said.

"I can't see us bringing it back. We tried it for a couple of years. Right now, it's a problem. We have no intention of revisiting that at this point."

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