In a few weeks the annual government-sponsored trophy hunt of grizzly bears commences just as bears emerge from their dens with young in tow. The bears are hungry after their hibernation and easy targets for hunters. Inevitably, female bears are killed, leaving orphaned cubs to starve.
The vast majority of British Columbians, including non-trophy hunters, have been calling on the Christy Clark government to end this senseless killing, but to no avail. Instead, the government announces it will open four additional areas to the grizzly bear trophy hunt this year.
Recently, on CKNW, I listened to photographer and bear-viewing guide John Marriott describe a bear he is familiar with in the Chilcotin region called “Big Momma.” She is huge and very photogenic — he calls her “a photo tour superstar,” but then he adds she will likely be an easy target this spring because she has become used to the presence of humans. She won’t know the difference between a camera and a gun.
A bear is worth more alive than dead. A live bear can be viewed and photographed hundreds of times. We are fortunate to have these majestic, iconic symbols of our B.C. wild. Their lives should be respected. Please visit bearsmatter.com and bearsforever.ca to see what you might do to help end the senseless killing.
JACQUELINE HOHMANN, Surrey
Focus Magazine, March 2014 http://focusonline.ca/?q=node/691
Studies call into question BC Liberals’ plans to expand bear hunting.
The magic of watching black bears overturning rocks and scooping up crabs on a Tofino beach, the once-in-a-lifetime excitement of seeing a Spirit Bear near Klemtu or witnessing the awe-inspiring power of grizzlies feeding on salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest are vignettes of BC that both tourists and residents carry close to their hearts.
So it is not surprising that a study by the Center for Responsible Travel at Stanford University in Washington concludes that live bears are worth more in cold, hard cash than dead bears. Not surprising, that is, to anyone except BC’s provincial government.
Instead of boosting the profitable business of bear viewing, the government is looking at extending the length of the spring black bear hunt and is re-opening the grizzly hunt in three areas of the Kootenays and one in the Cariboo—all formerly closed because of over-hunting.
Another indication of where provincial sympathies lie came during the first week of the spring sitting of the Legislature, when government introduced changes to the Wildlife Act—changes that will allow corporations, not just individuals, to hold guide outfitting areas, making it easier for a group of people to jointly purchase territories and reducing liability for individual owners. Assistant guides will no longer have to be licensed, allowing guide outfitters more flexibility during peak periods, something the industry says will reduce red tape.
A century ago, 35,000 grizzly bears lived in British Columbia and also flourished from Alaska to Mexico, and east to Ontario. Today, only about 15,000 grizzly bears inhabit B.C., having disappeared from the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan and around Fort St. John.
Bear experts have long known that if we want to keep grizzlies on the landscape, we must protect their habitat and ensure that the animals are not needlessly killed by humans. These two strategies are at the core of British Columbia’s official policy, the Grizzly Bear Strategy, which has guided management practices in the province since 1995. The ambitious strategy outlines steps to sustain the province’s bears with healthy populations and recover those with declining populations. It requires the government to protect bear habitat in a network of “grizzly bear management areas” where resource development is prevented and/or strictly managed, hunting is prohibited and risk-related recreational activities — such as off-highway vehicle use — are controlled. The plan also recognizes that human-caused mortality must be reduced and kept below sustainable thresholds by conservatively managing the grizzly bear sport hunt.
Our peer-reviewed study found that the government has not delivered on the plan’s goals because it has failed to implement it. The study includes a report card, which found that although progress has been made in developing more accurate population estimates (grade: C), increasing scientific knowledge about grizzly bears (grade: B) and improving public awareness of the species (grade: C), little has been done to implement the Grizzly Bear Strategy to protect grizzly bear habitat (grade: D-) or prevent overkilling of bears, including in the province’s controversial trophy hunt (grade: D). The government was also given a D grade for its inability to maintain the abundance and diversity of grizzly bears.
The B.C. government’s failure to manage grizzly bears effectively under its own policies is having disastrous consequences for the health of the species. Nine sub-populations are now on the verge of extinction, and scientists maintain that the government’s controversial trophy hunt is leading to widespread overkilling of bears.
Despite these alarming findings, government leaders continue to claim that the species is well-managed. This is a tired refrain we’ve heard before with government sanctioned overharvesting responsible for the cod collapse off the East Coast. Other species, such as woodland caribou in the north, have lost habitat to industrial development. By the time government took action, both species were well on their way to disappearing in some areas.
Today’s study is a wake-up call for the B.C government to adopt a precautionary approach to managing bear populations. The good news is that in places such as the U.S., where plans protected and managed the species, grizzly populations have become self-sustaining in places where only a few decades ago they had been written off.
You can help by sending a message to our political leaders that they must protect this iconic species before it’s too late.