Monthly Archives: February 2015

Save B.C. Wolves – Open Letter to the B.C. Government

Pacific Wild
Denny Island, B.C., Canada

Feb 25, 2015 — Go to www.pacificwild.org to take action and go to https://www.change.org/p/save-b-c-wolves 

OVER SIXTY CANADIAN AND INTERNATIONAL SIGNATORIES VOICE OPPOSITION TO THE B.C. WOLF KILL IN AN OPEN LETTER TO THE B.C. GOVERNMENT  (note: 16 new signators added since Open Letter sent to Premier Feb 25, 2015)

‘B.C. Government scapegoats wolves for its failure to protect caribou habitat’

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Coastal Guardian Watchmen confront armed trophy hunters to save grizzlies

“Sometimes it gets nasty,” said Jason Moody, a patroller from Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola.http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/coastal-guardian-watchmen-confront-armed-trophy-hunters-save-grizzlies
Coastal Guardian Watchmen Grizzly bear hunt
Coastal Guardian Watchmen on the lookout for trophy hunters on the Great Bear Rainforest coast in 2010. Photo by Doug Neasloss with Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation.

Patrolling up and down British Columbia’s coast with binoculars are a group of dedicated First Nations volunteers that boat right up to armed hunters, often American, in their vessels to dissuade them from killing at-risk grizzlies just for sport. 

Called the Coastal Guardian Watchmen, they urge unsuspecting trophy hunters to halt their pursuit of grizzlies as insensitive to First Nations culture, and against tribal law.

“Sometimes it gets nasty,” said Jason Moody, a patroller from Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola.

“Sometimes you get [trophy hunters] realizing, ‘OK, you guys don’t want the hunting around here. We’ll go somewhere else.’”

Foreign hunters from places like Virginia and Texas pay thousands of dollars to come to B.C.—to be in one of the few places left where the fourth-largest carnivore on the planet can be shot for a trophy head or a bear rug.  

Many trophy hunters don’t like the altercations with the now 16 native patrollers on the coast.

“It gets tense. Usually just having a presence is enough,” says William Housty, who chairs the Heltisiuk First Nation resource management office in Bella Bella, and coordinates many of the indigenous watchmen.

Housty’s biggest worry is intoxicated hunters harming his crews that double as field researchers, quietly collecting grizzly-hair DNA in the woods.

“If there are drunk hunters walking around drinking Jack Daniels — who is to say they won’t shoot one our researchers. That’s one of our biggest beefs with the province,” he said.

The Guardian Watchmen do not have the legal powers to board vessels or enforce conservation laws, but they wish they did. Provincial officers, the Coast Guard and the RCMP are not seen often enough, said Housty.

And many hunters they come across are not carrying provincial licences. 

“A lot of the people who come up here don’t actually have tags. They’re poachers,” said Housty.

The wildlife manager recalled an infamous incident in 2013 when NHL player Clayton Stoner let some coastal watchmen on board the famous hockey player’s boat to photograph the defencemen’s recent grizzly kill.

NHL Clayton Stoner grizzly beheaded

NHL defenceman Clayton Stoner posing with a beheaded grizzly in 2013.  Photo by Coastal Guardian Watchmen.

The head and claws were removed, and Stoner smiled for the watchmen’s photo snaps that would soon become national news material.

“He let himself be an idiot poster child for the trophy hunt,” laughed Housty.   

Stoner defended his bear kill at the time.

“I applied for and received a grizzly bear hunting licence through a British Columbia limited-entry lottery last winter and shot a grizzly bear with my licence while hunting with my father, uncle and a friend in May,” the hockey star said in a statement. 

But since that media spectacle, many watchmen admit they’ve only been partly successful in slowing the trophy hunt.   

The Guide Outfitters Association says as long as it is kept legal by the B.C. government, their members will continue flying in high-paying hunting clients to kill grizzlies.

“While we try to accommodate [aboriginal] wishes, but until they have jurisdiction, the authority around it is the Crown,” says the association’s executive director Scott Ellis.  

“Our guys are still going to operate their businesses.” 

But Coastal First Nations are now threatening legal action to put an end to the industry.

NDP and Liberals off-target on grizzly trophy hunt, conservationist says

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/ndp-and-liberals-target-grizzly-trophy-hunt-conservationist-says 

by Mychaylo Prystupa

Grizzly photo by Andrew Wright in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Grizzly photo by Andrew Wright in the Great Bear Rainforest.

A fierce political squabble this week in the British Columbia legislature over who gets to shoot bears — locals or foreigners — has entirely missed the target about the need to protect at-risk grizzlies, says a long-time conservationist.

“I think the NDP really has missed the mark,” says Brian Falconer with Raincoast Conservation Foundation on Thursday.

 

“The bears don’t care if it’s a guide outfitters’ bullet or a resident hunters’ bullet that goes through its gut.  It’s dead,” he added.

On Monday, the opposition New Democrats fired political shots at B.C. Minister Bill Bennett for an alleged conflict of interest regarding a recent hunting policy decision.  The issue made national headlines.

 

The opposition claims the long-time hunting enthusiast Liberal MLA, who has a habit of lobbing profanities at his hunting critics, should not have sat in on cabinet decisions about the so-called “allocation” of hunting permits.

The background is, the BC government recently changed the percentage of kill licences given to foreigners versus resident hunters in December.  

The change caused an uproar among the thousands of resident hunters represented by the BC Wildlife Federation, who growled at Bennett.

Mining Minister Bennett intervened, but not before colourfully pushing back on Facebook: “Frankly [Natural Resources Minister] Steve doesn’t need the votes to get elected, and I’m not running again, so all the threats don’t mean shit to us.” 

A tweak to the hunting allocation was made Feb.6.  

 

But the NDP says, because Bennett is still owed a $70,000 loan from a guide outfitting business he sold in 2001, he must be in bed with the guide outfitters.

“If the guide outfitters do better [because of the policy shift], would he get his money back?  You start to think about that,” said NDP MLA Katrine Conroy on Thursday.

The opposition even released an e-mail showing Bennett telling ministerial staff he’s been “intimately involved” in allocation decisions.

What’s missed in all this bafflegab, says Falconer, is that 87% of British Columbians polled in 2013 want the trophy hunt stopped altogether — not political battles over who gets to kill, he said.

“All of this bickering is disguising the real issue.  It doesn’t matter if the bear hide ends up on a floor in the Kootenays, or a floor in West Virginia — the grizzly is still dead.”

The Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative has long said the trophy hunt of (white) spirit bears and grizzlies is an affront to their culture, is threatening to a scientifically unknown number of grizzlies, and provides far less economic value than the bear-watching eco businesses.

The BC Wildlife Federation agrees the recent allocation decision was not about the trophy hunt, and that its resident hunters seek the grizzlies for food.

“Many people, including my own family, will eat grizzly meat or black bear meat, or whatever,” said BCWF vice president Jim Glaicar.

“This is about the issue of access for residents of BC and privatizing a public resource,” he added. 

Bears Matter Note: Please sign Letter to Premier Clark to Stop Trophy Killing of Grizzlies! It is unacceptable and unethical to over 87% of British Columbians. It is unscientific and goes against our eco-tourism culture in BC!

https://www.change.org/p/protect-grizzly-bears-by-banning-the-trophy-hunt-in-bc

With files from Jenny Uechi.

Vancouver Sun Opinion: Ecologists oppose B.C. wolf kill by John and Mary Theberge

The B.C. government has no plans for a wolf cull or a bounty in the province, despite concerns in the cattle industry and among some First Nations that the predator population is out of control. Photograph by: NATHAN DENETTE , THE CANADIAN PRESS

The B.C. government has no plans for a wolf cull or a bounty in the province, despite concerns in the cattle industry and among some First Nations that the predator population is out of control.
Photograph by: NATHAN DENETTE , THE CANADIAN PRESS

As two of Canada’s senior wolf biologists, we are disturbed the B.C. government is implementing massive wolf control plan with the low probability of recovering a few small, isolated, range-edge herds of mountain caribou.

As university-based biologists, we have run the longest, most intensive, telemetry-based wolf research program in Canada. We have published two books on our wolf research and many scientific papers including two on what constitutes valid biological evidence to assess the role of predators in limiting prey numbers.

Assessing the ecological consequences of a major intervention such as predator control is a complex task filled with uncertainty. The need for the government to explain itself is underlined by an amazing statement in its 2014 wolf management policy: “Attempts to control wolves to reduce predation risks on caribou has been a provincial priority since 2001. Wolf densities have been reduced; however, at this time, a correlation between reduced wolf densities and caribou recovery cannot be substantiated.”

Why has past wolf killing not worked? The government’s chosen reason seems to be wolf killing needs to be more intensive, and more long lasting; that choice is inferred in the wolf management policy. Another possibility is that no rise in caribou numbers is possible because of habitat destruction, regardless of the presence of wolves. Starvation, climate-caused winter kill, predation by bears and/or cougars, accidents such as avalanches and other unpredictable events are have taken a major toll.

We would place our bets, however, on a third reasons that wolf killing has not lead to caribou recovery. Over much of B.C., what is known as an ecological phase shift has happened. Ecologists know of such shifts: witness the fish and wildlife tragedy of the Bering Sea, and the non-recovered cod fishery of the Atlantic. Phase shifts are based on one-way environmental alterations in trophic and other complex ecosystem interrelationships. New species crowd out the potential for recovery of old ones. Recovery is generally beyond the scope of management intervention.

Across much of B.C., massive forest cutting has resulted in gross habitat alteration and fragmentation. The cost? A phase shift. Moose, benefiting from early successional forests after logging and other land uses have greatly extended their range in B.C. Numbers of elk and deer have adjusted, too. However, caribou, especially the southern mountain ecotype, have declined due to a loss of critical older-growth, lichen-clad forests. They have been victims, too, of habitat fragmentation preventing herd-to-herd “metapopulation” flow that once reduced risks of local, herd extinctions.

Ecosystems are made up of interacting parts. Removing predators constitutes a major perturbation. It is a slippery slope, where, when you start, you are doomed to increasing intervention with unknown consequences. With fewer wolves, will moose and elk populations increase? Will their browsing inhibit forest regeneration? Should they be killed, too? (In B.C.’s 2010 plan for an aerial wolf kill, moose reduction was a management prescription, too) If caribou numbers were to increase, would grizzlies and black bears become more common predators on caribou? What then, kill them? (In the Revelstoke region, bears — grizzly and black — were the major predator on caribou from 1992-2006, according to an internal ministry report.)

How long do you keep on intervening in dubious and unpredictable ways? It takes 75, maybe 100 years to grow forest stands with the structure to maximize arboreal lichens that have long fed caribou. In the meantime, what does climate change deal out?

Theberges

Until he retired in 2000, John Theberge was a professor with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. John’s co-researcher and wife, Mary Theberge, is a wildlife illustrator and educator.  

Read More at:

http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/Opinion+Ecologists+oppose+wolf+kill/10827496/story.html 

Please sign letter to Premier Clark and share with contacts: https://www.change.org/p/save-b-c-wolves