Monthly Archives: April 2014

Opinion: B.C. government wants grizzly bears dead

Province could buy out hunting tenures and create world’s largest reserve

By Chris Genovali, Special to the Vancouver Sun April 14, 2014
A grizzly bear feeds along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola.  Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward , THE CANADIAN PRESS

A grizzly bear feeds along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola. Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward , THE CANADIAN PRESS

We want these bears dead. This is the message the B.C. government’s “reallocation policy” sends to the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, to British Columbians, and to the world.

This policy also prevents the implementation of an innovative solution to end the commercial trophy hunting of grizzlies and other large carnivores throughout the Great Bear Rainforest.

With the mismanaged, and some would say depraved, B.C. grizzly bear hunt having commenced this month, the controversy surrounding the recreational killing of these iconic animals is spiking once again.

A hard-won Raincoast-led moratorium on grizzly hunting in B.C. was overturned in 2001 by Gordon Campbell’s newly elected Liberal government with no justification other than serving as an obvious sop to the trophy hunting lobby. So, what was supposed to be a three-year provincewide ban was revoked after one spring hunting season. Raincoast, recognizing the then-new premier’s mulish intractability on this issue, decided to take a different approach.

Raincoast raised $1.3 million in 2005 to purchase the commercial trophy hunting rights across 24,700 square kilometres of the Great Bear Rainforest. Raincoast purchased an additional 3,500 square kilometres in 2012, including nearly all the habitat of the spirit bear (despite a restriction on killing spirit bears, trophy hunting of black bears that carry the recessive gene that causes the white coat is allowed). The sellers of these hunting tenures received a fair price, bears were safeguarded, and ecotourism prospered, including within coastal First Nations communities.

The province has countered by instituting a so-called reallocation policy (a.k.a. the Raincoast policy), whereby unused (not killed) grizzly bear “quota” would be stripped from Raincoast’s commercial tenures and allocated to resident hunters (B.C. residents who do not require a licensed hunting guide by law).

Bereft of any legitimate argument to justify the recreational killing of grizzlies, provincial wildlife managers stand naked in front of an increasingly disgusted and disapproving public, their blatant cronyism on behalf of the trophy hunting lobby exposed for all to see.

The ecological argument is clear: killing bears for “management” purposes is unnecessary and scientifically unsound. Although attempts are made to dress the province’s motivations in the trappings of proverbial “sound science,” they are clearly driven by an anachronistic ideology that is disconcertingly fixated on killing as a legitimate and necessary tool of wildlife management.

Dr. Paul Paquet, senior scientist at Raincoast and co-author of a recently published peer-reviewed paper on B.C. bear management, states: “We analyzed only some of the uncertainty associated with grizzly management and found it was likely contributing to widespread overkills. I’m not sure how the government defines sound science, but an approach that carelessly leads to widespread overkills is less than scientifically credible.”

The ethical argument is clear: gratuitous killing for recreation and amusement is unacceptable and immoral. Polling shows that nine of 10 British Columbians agree, from rural residents (including many hunters) to city dwellers. In their 2009 publication, The Ethics of Hunting, Drs. Michael Nelson and Kelly Millenbah state if wildlife managers began “to take philosophy and ethics more seriously, both as a realm of expertise that can be acquired and as a critical dimension of wildlife conservation, many elements of wildlife conservation and management would look different.”

The economic argument is clear. Recent research by Stanford University identifies that bear-viewing supports 10 times more employment, tourist spending, and government revenue than trophy hunting within the Great Bear Rainforest. Notably, the Stanford study suggests the revenue generated by fees and licences affiliated with the trophy killing of grizzlies fails to cover the cost of the province’s management of the hunt. As a result, B.C. taxpayers, most of whom oppose the hunt according to poll after poll, are in essence forced to subsidize the trophy killing of grizzlies.

What remains unknown is why the B.C. government so desperately wants these bears dead.

Raincoast stands ready to raise the funds to acquire the remaining commercial hunting tenures in the Great Bear Rainforest, a mutually beneficial solution that guide outfitters have indicated they will not oppose. Although the province, at its political peril, has failed to recognize it, Coastal First Nations have banned trophy hunting under their laws throughout their unceded territories, and the public is overwhelmingly supportive.

Buying out the remaining hunting tenures in the Great Bear Rainforest, coupled with the administrative closure of resident hunting in the region, would create the largest grizzly bear reserve in the world and a model for sustainable economic activity.

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

B.C.’s expanded grizzly hunt underway as scientists duel over bear numbers

A grizzly bear fishes along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, B.C. Friday, Sept 10, 2010. B.C.'s annual hunt is underway with an increase in the numbers of tags for hunters. Scientists on either side of the trophy hunt divide disagree sharply about the size of B.C.'s grizzly bear population. Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRES

A grizzly bear fishes along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, B.C. Friday, Sept 10, 2010. B.C.’s annual hunt is underway with an increase in the numbers of tags for hunters. Scientists on either side of the trophy hunt divide disagree sharply about the size of B.C.’s grizzly bear population.
Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRES


B.C.’s controversial grizzly bear hunt has begun, despite concerns from some in the scientific community who say the government’s population estimates could be flawed.

About 1,800 grizzly hunting tags are expected to be issued in B.C. this year — up from 1,700 tags last year, and the highest number in decades — although it is expected the actual number of bears killed will be closer to the annual average of about 300.

The province has also opened several areas previously closed to grizzly hunting for conservation reasons, including parts of the Kootenays.

But a recent study by the Raincoast Conservation Society that looked at B.C. grizzly hunting over a 10-year period from 2001 to 2011 found that “over-kill” (or an unsustainable mortality rate) occurred in about half of all hunting regions at some point during that time.

Raincoast biologist and Simon Fraser University PhD candidate Kyle Artelle, who was involved in the study, also questioned the B.C. government’s grizzly population estimates.

“The way the hunt is done it’s like trying to manage a bank account without knowing the balance,” he said.

In a letter published in March in Science, Artelle and his colleagues said provincial wildlife managers should be held to the same standard as research scientists, whose work must have independent oversight.

But the government pointed to its own peer-reviewed work, saying in a press release on the 2014 hunt that it is using the “best-available science to ensure harvest levels are sustainable.”

“I think we have the best idea (of the population) of any of the jurisdictions that hunt bears right now,” provincial grizzly biologist Garth Mowat said in an earlier interview.

“We have spent a lot of resources improving our understanding of the number of bears in British Columbia and I’m quite comfortable that it’s good enough to allow us to conservatively manage the hunt.”

For those who live in grizzly country, the hunt is part of the way of life.

“If you live in Vancouver, it’s easy to be against hunting,” said Horsefly resident David Farkas.

The man chased a grizzly out of his backyard last fall.

“We live with these animals,” he said. “People here love fishing and hunting.”

On the Kootenay Hunters & Fishers Facebook page several people have written about the 2014 grizzly hunt, some posting pictures of themselves with bears they’ve killed in the past. A petition connected to the page called Support the BC Grizzly Hunt has received almost 12,000 signatures since April 2012.

“Hunters and outdoorsmen have long been the true conservationists in Canada, North America, and the world,” the petition claims.

But bear guide Neil Shearar said he doesn’t believe that’s true.

“Conservation for the sake of making sure there’s enough animals to hunt isn’t really conservation,” he said, explaining that conservation that’s simply based on increasing a population, rather than restoring a balanced eco-system, can lead to problems for other species.

Shearar, who has been guiding on the B.C. coast for about 15 years, compared killing grizzlies to killing sharks for their fins.

“It’s trophy hunting,” he said. “People aren’t eating them. They’re shooting them for their head and paws.”

An online petition called Stop the Trophy Hunt has collected about 64,500 signatures since March 2010.

— With files from The Canadian Press



— About 35 per cent of British Columbia is closed to grizzly hunting.

— Historically, hunters have killed around 300 grizzly bears a year out of a population estimated by the B.C. government of 15,000, or a two per cent harvest rate.(  Bears Matter Note: This number is very controversial: Raincoast Conservation Foundation  Recent Report by Artelle et al published in Nature Journal says 15,000 to 8,000 is the spread of what is possible…no one knows for certain)

— The grizzly bear hunt is the most intensively managed hunt of any species in the province.(Bears Matter Note:  Millions of  tax-payer dollars are used to administer the Trophy Killing of Grizzlies and 88% of British Columbians are opposed to it continuing -latest McAllister Research Poll-hunters included)

— About 1,800 tags are expected to be issued to hunters this year, up from 1,700 last year.(Bears Matter Note:  2012 New Hunter Initiation Program began  by gov’t to increase hunter numbers, no core safety course needed,  anyone can get a hunting license to ‘try it out’, 10yr olds can hunt w 18yr,-the woods are becoming a scary place and it has nothing to do with the animals that live there but the ‘new hunters and young hunters’ trying it out with little or no training’. Lots of subsidies for new hunters by govt to increase hunter numbers and sales of licenses and fees eventually )

— The spring grizzly hunt runs from April 1 to the end of May. The fall hunt begins Oct. 1 and continues into mid-November.(Bears Matter Note: Correction  in 2014/2015 Regulations state some hunts open April 1 to June 15 and Aug 15 to Nov 30)

— Source: B.C. Ministry of Forests

© Copyright (c) The Province

Charlie Russell; Alberta’s Bear Whisperer says Society has It Wrong, Speaks in Red Deer April 5th @ 1pm


By Renee Francoeur – Red Deer Advocate

For 10 years, Charlie Russell lived the majority of his life with the big-pawed, thick-necked kings of the forest.He’s gone fishing side by side with a Kermode bear, run his hands through the hairs of Russian brown bears, one of the world’s largest bear species, and been left in charge of a handful of their cubs.

Now the Albertan bear whisperer is coming to Red Deer, April 5th to share his story and open up a dialogue about the creatures he says society has got all wrong.

“We’ve been told they’re unpredictable and they’re dangerous if they lose fear of people. I didn’t think this was true … to me they have always seemed to be a peace-loving animal,” said Russell, 72, who lives on his family ranch overlooking Waterton Lakes National Park in Southern Alberta.

An author, photographer and naturalist, Russell will be speaking in Red Deer on Saturday at Carnival Cinemas about his 50 years of studying grizzly bears and details about the recent return of grizzlies to Southern Alberta after a 125-year absence.

He is widely known for his extensive fieldwork in Kamchatka, in Russia’s far east, where he spent 10 summers living in near isolation with only the hundreds of surrounding bears for company. There he later taught local guides how to lead bear-viewing tours and adopted orphaned cubs from zoos slated to be killed, helping them integrate into the wilderness. All the while, he was collecting research to help prove bears and humans can co-exist in an environment of trust versus terror.

“The females would bring me their cubs to babysit when they saw me. This was never thought of as a possibility. … It was amazing; I felt protected,” he said. “To have an adult bear spot you about 400 metres away and recognize you and come running hard straight at you, not to attack you but to say hello and lay down with you was incredible because here was an animal with all this bad press and yet they can behave this way.”

In 1994, when Russell first built his cabin in Russia to begin his research, these bears had very limited contact with people, he said. It allowed him to create a unique culture of trust that is nearly impossible to do in North America.

When bears do turn on people, there is a reason and it’s connected to the way we manage them, Russell said.

“We manage them to be fearful of us. We tend to be very rough with them in the park … shooting them with rubber bullets and other ways to keep them fearful and stay away from us. That fear creates danger.”

As such, Russell said he does carry pepper spray around with him on his ranch but that it doesn’t have to be this way.

“It’s going to be a long process but I want people to have a different understanding of bears than what is handed to them in a park brochure, that there is the potential of trust there and my photos show that,” he said. “It’s a hard struggle getting people to change their minds about bears but I’m not going to quit.”

His fascination with the large, snout-nosed animals began in 1967 when his father, a fellow well-known hunter and naturalist, Andy Russell, started producing a documentary about grizzlies.

“I became more and more interested. When I started ranching, there were a lot of bears because we’re right by the national park. I let them roam and feel welcome on the place and I don’t think I lost one animal in my 18 years ranching in the 1970s and ’80s — that’s not to say they don’t kill animals. … The cattle I find are more scared of me on my horse than the bears nearby,” he said.

Russell has also been featured in two documentaries regarding his findings, Walking with Giants: The Grizzlies of Siberia in 1999 and Bear Man of Kamchatka in 2006. He’s also helped numerous films get up close and personal with bears, most recently working with crews from The Nature of Things with David Suzuki on a grizzlies segment for the Wild Canada series, which aired last Thursday.

Tickets to Russell’s presentation are $25 each. The door open at noon with the discussion starting at   1 p.m. For more information, call 403-346-1300.