Vancouver Sun Editorial: Time for province to end grizzly bear hunt

Sept 11, 2015


One bear is not proof of a trend; however, the sighting near Whistler of a female grizzly with cub is welcome news.

Extirpated from much of its historic range, the province’s largest terrestrial carnivore remains a species of special concern, threatened by habitat loss and human activity. So sighting a fertile female in a region where wildlife managers hope a grizzly population can regenerate is cause for cautious optimism.

That’s the good news, even if it comes with the imperative for Whistler hikers and campers to become bear-aware regarding the risks and what to do in an encounter.

The bad news is provincial authorities continue to promote the slaughter of grizzlies to satisfy the vanity of trophy hunters.

The province estimated in 2012 that B.C. had 15,075 grizzlies, fewer than 100 in the southwest region. Yet some grizzly advocates believe populations are over-estimated, deaths under-estimated and that every bear killed is one death too many. One biologist argues that rigorous grizzly population estimates have been done in only 12 per cent of B.C. Another paper published by four B.C.-based wildlife biologists in 2013 found excessive mortality levels in 19 per cent of the cases studied. It worried that excessive mortality might really occur in 70 per cent.

Such fears are amplified by reports the province has been increasing hunting effort on grizzly bears. The number of licenses issued since 2005 for grizzly hunting apparently increased by 58 per cent.

It’s no surprise that First Nations on the north central coast where grizzlies concentrate to exploit large annual salmon runs are now vowing to take whatever steps necessary to enforce bans on what they deem unethical trophy hunting in their traditional territories. They have a strong economic case, too. First Nations seek to build a sustainable, long-term tourist industry in the region based on wildlife viewing. This is a sound business plan. The Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C. says ecotourism is already worth $1.5 billion a year to the province and growing rapidly. By comparison, trophy killing grizzlies brings in about $116 million a year and is severely constrained by harvest quotas. In other words, trophy hunting is worth peanuts and has little growth potential compared with wildlife viewing.

Not long ago, an American trophy hunter revolted the world by killing Cecil, a Zimbabwean lion. One week of wildlife viewing of Cecil from a nearby lodge generated more income for Zimbabwe than the hunter who paid only once to kill the lion. The tourist revenue would have flowed for the rest of the lion’s natural life. This fact lends weight to First Nations’ arguments. They experienced a similarly wasteful loss in 2013 when a grizzly named Cheeky was killed by a trophy hunter who cut off his head and paws and left the carcass to rot.

Almost all British Columbians — 87 per cent — oppose trophy hunting grizzly bears. This seems an excellent time for government to revisit what most of the citizens it serves consider a barbaric, wasteful, morally — and economically — indefensible practice.

Updates on Pacific Wild and Bears Matter Petitions: Graphic Grizzly Hunt Video Gone Viral 

Update fr Pacific Wild Sept 13, 2015 ‘Have you seen this video?’ Warning: Graphic Content

Bears Matter

Sep 14, 2015 — Have you seen this video? (Warning: Graphic content)

Pacific Wild
Sep 13, 2015 — A very violent video of a trophy hunt kill went viral earlier this week in Canada, and now newspapers across the country, in particular B.C., are amping up the call for an end to the trophy hunt of grizzly bears.

One journalist has gone so far as to challenge Christy Clark, the premier of B.C., to watch the video and tell B.C. she still supports the trophy hunt.

90% of B.C. residents already want this hunt to end, and Coastal First Nations have already banned the hunt on their territories. 

Premier Clark has the public support AND the power to end the hunt whenever she wants. After watching this video, it’s hard to imagine she won’t also have the heart to do the right thing.

This is the right film, at the right time. Please help us pressure the Premier to act while outcry from this video is fresh.

To tweet to Premier Clark, click here: (we provide text you can edit)

For more ways to spread the word, visit: 

- Pacific Wild

Have you seen this video? (Warning: Graphic content)
Have you seen this video? (Warning: Graphic content)
A very violent video of a trophy hunt kill went viral earlier this week in Canada, and now newspapers across the country, in particular B.C., are amping up the call for an end to the trophy…


Globe & Mail Article by Gary Mason & Graphic Video; ‘I Challenge BC’s Premier to Watc this Grizzly Bear Hunt Video’

It seems bizarre that we can be outraged by the trophy hunting we witnessed in Africa, but allow the same thing to happen in our own country. (Fotofeeling/Westend61 GmbH)It seems bizarre that we can be outraged by the trophy hunting we witnessed in Africa, but allow the same thing to happen in our own country.
(Fotofeeling/Westend61 GmbH)

The Globe and Mail

There are images that hit the Internet that break our hearts. And there are those that make us furious. A new video making the rounds on social media is managing to do both – and the B.C. government should be alive to the backlash it is creating.

The video opens with a grizzly bear wandering nonchalantly on a remote hillside. A shot rings out that kicks up dust beside the bear, with no evident impact on him. An off-camera voice urges the shooter to fire again. And then the carnage begins: For the next 90 seconds, you can only watch in disgust and horror as the bear is peppered with bullets from a rifle that seems to have only enough power to torture this poor creature to death, rather than end its life in anything resembling a humane way. 
Warning: The video below is extremely graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.

There are two parts of the video that are particularly disturbing: the bear running in a tight circle in reaction to the bullets hitting him; and then its final, crushing, end-over-end death tumble down a snow-covered hillside, a trail of deep red blood covering his fall line. Soon, the hunters can be heard laughing and celebrating, elated that the bear’s cartwheel to the bottom of the hill means less work lugging the carcass out of the bush.

The Wildlife Defence League, which posted the video to its Facebook page on Monday, doesn’t know the identity of the shooters or the precise location of the killing, although it’s believed to have taken place in northern British Columbia. B.C., you see, still allows well-financed hunters to come in and kill grizzlies for sport; to walk away with a head that can be mounted on some wall in their home, or a bear’s coat that can be used as a tacky rug in some cabin.

Alberta shut down trophy hunting in 2006, over fears that the grizzly population was on the verge of extinction. The population has since come back, and with its re-emergence there have been calls for the trophy hunt to be resumed. That is unlikely, as the Alberta public is decidedly on the side of the grizzly, just as the B.C. public is.

But while the vast majority of people in B.C. find the notion of sport-hunting grizzlies despicable, the government continues to allow it.

This is the same government that continues to preface almost any policy announcement with the words: “We have listened to the public and …” Except when it comes to the senseless slaughter of grizzly bears. That, somehow, is different.

Perhaps not all grizzlies are killed in the same merciless, appalling manner that the one in this video was. But we know that many likely are because while sport hunters may have the big bucks to pay for such “hunting” opportunities, they don’t always have the skill to match. There are grizzlies that have likely walked around for days wounded by a bullet or two, much as Cecil the lion wandered the jungles of Zimbabwe after being maimed by an arrow pulled by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Mr. Palmer, as the world knows, eventually finished poor Cecil off.

It seems bizarre that we can be so rightly outraged by the trophy hunting we witness in Africa, but allow the same thing to happen in our own country. Grizzlies in B.C. are being killed for no other reason than for pure pleasure and enjoyment; to provide some testosterone-fuelled “sports hunter” the thrill of killing a defenceless animal that is doing nothing more than innocently ambling about in its home environment.

Why? In terms of any commerce that might be lost by ending this archaic pursuit, it’s been demonstrated by study after study that there is far more money to be made by giving people the thrill of seeing a grizzly in the wild than there is giving people the chance to kill them. Eco-tourism can and does provide plenty of jobs in remote parts of B.C., far more than guide outfitting does or ever will.

First Nations are adamantly against the sport-killing of grizzlies as well. Yes, the same First Nations communities whose support the B.C. government needs on so many levels these days. But call off this trophy hunt? Are you kidding, that would make a handful of guide outfitters unhappy and they support the Liberal Party.

I challenge Premier Christy Clark to watch the shooting of that grizzly bear and allow this practice to continue. It is not like B.C. is being overrun by these creatures. And most people accept that grizzlies can and will continue to be hunted by First Nations, but only as a form of sustenance. The notion that some bozo can pay a guide to point him in the direction of a poor defenceless animal and be allowed to brutalize it to death is infuriating. And it has to end.

In 2012, bands along B.C.’s north and central coasts declared a ban on trophy bear hunting – one that was ignored by the Liberal government. Now they are promising to go to even greater lengths to see this antediluvian tradition end. For many First Nations groups in B.C., this has become their hill to die on.

Follow  on Twitter: @garymasonglobe 

Globe and Mail: BC, The Ancient Skill of Hunting is about Humility and Respect for Animals 

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Drawn by the scent of death, the apex predators came to the hunters. That’s what made the killing of Cecil the lion in Africa, and the shooting of an unnamed grizzly bear in British Columbia, both illegal activities.

Lions and bears are fierce predators, but they are not above scavenging carcasses. Because big predators can’t resist being drawn by scent to dead animals, it is illegal in Africa to hunt lions that way, and equally illegal in B.C. to use bait to draw in bears.

While the shooting of the beloved lion triggered global outrage, the killing of the B.C. grizzly by a different hunter and guide has been widely ignored.

The killing of Cecil triggered a storm of protest on social media and an investigation that led to a call by Zimbabwe for the extradition of Walter Palmer, the U.S. dentist who shot the lion with a crossbow after his guide lured it out of Hwange National Park with a dead animal on top of a vehicle.

Martin Thomas, a veteran assistant guide with Prophet Muskwa Outfitters in B.C., got off lightly by comparison. He was charged for “hunting with bait” in 2012 after his client shot a grizzly, and was fined $3,500 when convicted in June.

Unlike the furor that erupted around the Cecil slaughter, however, the illegal killing of the grizzly hardly ruffled a feather. Even the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. hadn’t heard about it until it was drawn to their attention by media last week – just a few months after they honoured Mr. Thomas by giving him the prestigious Leland Award for professionalism and a $1,000 prize.

“The GOABC was not aware of the charges and will review this matter at a later date,” Scott Ellis, executive director of the association said in a brief e-mail when asked about the matter.

Mr. Thomas couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Marty is out of touch until late October,” Kevin Olmstead of Prophet Muskwa said in an e-mail. Most guides are off the grid at this time of year, because it’s the heart of hunting season in northern B.C.

Mr. Thomas did not lose his guiding privileges after being convicted, so he could be leading another hunter this week to another grizzly. Prophet Muskwa charges $21,500 for such a hunt.

Micah Kneller, B.C. conservation officer in Fort St. John, said Mr. Thomas’s hunter wasn’t charged “because in part the expectation is that when someone hires a professional guide outfitter and they are not familiar with the province or they are a non-resident, the outfitter basically ensures that the hunt is lawful.”

He said Mr. Thomas was caught after the hunter wrote an article describing the hunt in the U.S.-based magazine, Super Slam of North American Big Game.

The magazine is dedicated to hunters who want to kill the top 29 trophy animals in North America. On that list are four bear species, a cougar, five types of deer, three of elk, five of caribou, three of moose, a bison, a muskox, an American mountain goat, a pronghorn antelope and five kinds of sheep. If you are not satisfied with all that killing, you can also bag some of the “auxiliary” trophies that aren’t mandatory, and seem to just be thrown in for fun: Atlantic walrus, jaguar and Pacific walrus.

Mr. Palmer achieved the Super Slam of North American Big Game, and was apparently slamming for bigger recognition when he paid $55,000 to hunt a lion. Since the story broke that he’d killed Cecil, he’s been forced to close his dental practice and pretty much go into hiding. He may yet be extradited to Zimbabwe, where he’s accused of sponsoring an illegal hunt.

Mr. Thomas’s client got no penalty and other than the small fine, the only thing Mr. Thomas has to worry about is whether the Leland Award will be taken away from him.

B.C. puts the onus on guides to follow the law. But when they break it, the fine is often minor. It should at least reflect the price of the hunt, and any guide who hunts over bait should be banned from bear hunting.

As for the Super Slam, any hunter who wants to be on that list has lost his way. Hunting is an ancient skill. It is meant to be pursued with humility and respect for animals.


B.C. Has its Own Version of Cecil the Lion by Julius Strauss and Kevin Smith

Banff Bear Sighting 20140318

Grizzly bear viewing is a growing tourism business that brings in millions of dollars to the B.C. economy. PHOTO: Jonathan Hayward/CP

While the world has been gripped by the sad fate of Cecil the Lion, shot earlier this week by an American trophy hunter on the plains of Africa and left to die, British Columbia has many of its very own Cecils quietly bringing millions of dollars into the provincial economy.

Over the last two decades, grizzly bear viewing in B.C. has grown from a tiny niche business to one estimated be worth $30 million in direct revenue to the economy in 2012, according to the Centre for Responsible Travel’s study conducted with Stanford University.

This is more than 10 times as much as the industry of killing bears for sport.

And yet, this industry is under pressure from trophy hunting.

While some operations are fortunate enough to have dozens of bears to view, others rely on a small handful of grizzlies that return year after year. All of them, though, are vulnerable wherever trophy hunting of bears is permitted.

For in areas where bears are hunted, they not only hide from humans and but their population suffers. So we can’t view them. Conversely, where bears are not hunted, they go about their days without running into the forest when we arrive, and we can watch amazing things, such as mother bears teaching their cubs to fish. And we can do it over and over again.

When Raincoast Conservation Foundation bought trophy hunting licences in the Great Bear Rainforest, which ended the hunt in some areas, and when the government created grizzly bear sanctuaries in other areas, there were suddenly more bears for us to view.

What’s the importance of a grizzly bear alive? There are grizzly bears in one valley in the Kootenays alone that are worth $50,000 per year to just one local bear-viewing business. Bear viewing can be practised in the same area by several businesses year after year.

Locally-owned bear viewing companies plow more than 80 per cent of revenue back into local businesses or the salaries of local residents; it is a huge resource for our economies. Almost all bear-viewing operations in B.C. have their own Cecil the Lion.

Until recently, officials with the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations in B.C. maintained that bear-viewing and bear-hunting could exist in harmony.

But one of our operations in the Kootenays has been forced to cancel its spring bear-viewing season for next year — worth up to $80,000 to a remote area — because of the persistent presence of grizzly hunters in areas where they view bears.

On the other hand, on the coast where there are still areas free from grizzly bear hunting, the industry continues to expand rapidly, with all operators reporting sold-out seasons, year after year.

The B.C. government recently extended the length of the trophy hunt without any consultation outside the hunting community. In the Kootenays, we have asked the official responsible for an explanation, but a month has passed with no reply.

Our industry often operates in economically-depressed areas. The cancellation of bear viewing costs those areas jobs and income. In the Kootenay valley operation referred to above, it will cost local businesses and residents up to $80,000.

The demand, worldwide, to view bears in a respectful, ecologically sensitive way is staggering. It’s one of the things that Canada is known for around the world in tourism. It’s also arguably much more in tune with the values of our modern society. Several polls suggest that more than 80 per cent of British Columbians oppose the trophy hunting of grizzly bears.

So, despite a recent assertion by the B.C. Guide Outfitters Association, which represents the province’s trophy hunting guides, that it is an acceptable sport, we suggest that bear viewing trumps trophy hunting on all levels — ethics, jobs, revenues, and B.C.’s brand worldwide. We encourage British Columbians to let their elected officials know that Cecil’s story is a story that plays out here every year, and we want that to end.

Julius Strauss has owned and operated Grizzly Bear Ranch in the Kootenay Valley since 2004. Kevin Smith has owned and operated Maple Leaf Adventures on the B.C. coast since 2001. Both are bear viewing guides and members of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of B.C.


Times Colonist Editorial: Bear Killings are a Moral Issue

When he refused to kill two orphaned bear cubs, B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant put his career on the line. But he also sparked a needed debate about the morality of killing “problem” animals.

The incident that triggered this controversy occurred near Port Hardy three weeks ago, after the mother of the cubs was shot for raiding a freezer. Despite being ordered to destroy the eight-week-olds, Casavant took them to a local animal shelter for treatment.

For this act of human decency, Casavant was suspended. He remains at home while the Environment Ministry, where he works, conducts an assessment of his actions.

But it is not Casavant the ministry should be investigating. It is the government’s policy.

For the statistics make grim reading. In the past four years, conservation officers destroyed 352 cougars, provincewide.

To put that in context, hunters shoot fewer than 100 cougars a year on Vancouver Island — which has the highest density of these animals in North America.

Over the past decade, conservation officers, along with RCMP staff, killed almost 300 grizzly bears in B.C. That’s more than the grizzly population in the south Chilcotin.

And while it’s hard to keep up with the number of black bears exterminated, an estimated 1,870 have been killed since 2011.

A caution is needed here. This is not a tale of reckless slaughter. This is a tale of slaughter carried out in pursuit of a policy the ministry honestly believes in, indeed sees no alternative to.

And there are some limited defences that can be offered. Cougars are difficult to relocate. They don’t tolerate sedatives well, and an animal released in a different part of the province might be killed by the resident alpha male.

Wildlife officials can also claim some success relocating grizzlies and black bears.

But the unanswered question is why so many of these largely peaceful animals are killed in the first place. There is scant statistical evidence that human lives are being lost in numbers that compel such actions.

Since the late 1800s, only seven British Columbians have been killed by cougars. That’s about one every 17 years. Over the same period, grizzlies have killed just five people, and black bears, nine.

That’s hardly a massive death toll. Bee stings and lightning kill more people.

Moreover, the vast majority of bear attacks occur when someone either stumbles on the animal unexpectedly or gets between a mother and her cubs. These are defensive reactions, not instances of deliberate predation, and provide no reason to kill the bear.

The species at fault is us. Most of the cougars put down by wildlife officers were encountered in urban communities. They come here for the deer we allow to proliferate in our parks and gardens, and for the raccoons that live out of our trash cans.

Unfortunately, these realities won’t change any time soon. We’re not going to rid our cities of deer.

But what can change is the shoot-first policy the ministry too often employs. Wildlife experts from other jurisdictions believe much more can be done to relocate animals, in particular bear cubs.

The problem, of course, is money. A bullet costs $1.50, while relocating wildlife is much more expensive. And the Environment Ministry, like the rest of government, is strapped for funds.

But at its most basic, this isn’t a question of finance, it’s a question of morality.

After the ministry completes its investigation of Casavant and, we hope, reinstates him, it owes us an answer to this question: Is it true that B.C. lags behind some other jurisdictions in the humane treatment of wildlife, and what steps will be taken to make us leaders in this field?