Category Archives: Scientific Study

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

http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/editorials/editorial+time+province+grizzly+bear+hunt/11356982/story.html

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.

Press Release May 11, 2015: New Research Shows Habitat Loss Driving (B.C.) South Peace Caribou Towards Extinction!

Caribou Photo 1

Eight environmental groups, Valhalla Wilderness Society, Pacific Wild, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Wilderness Committee, Wildlife Defence League, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, Wolf Awareness Inc., and
Bears Matter, applaud a recently published scientific report that reveals how much habitat the caribou in the South Peace region have lost.

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Grizzly bears seen as gold for mining, B.C. gov’t emails reveal Vancouver Observer

Relaxing Grizzlygrouse-grizzly_n3d3306-web

Relaxing grizzly bear. Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

FOI investigation reveals that senior B.C. bureaucrats seized on the province’s rising grizzly bear numbers —disputed by researchers—to “mitigate” the impacts of mining

The Freedom of Information (FOI) released memos were obtained by the Vancouver Observer.

In early 2014, the BC Liberals controversially re-opened the grizzly hunt in two pockets of the province in the Caribou and Kootenay hunting areas. Mining Minister Bill Bennett was also given high-level briefings on January 7 to re-start the trophy hunt, the memos show.

Provincial biologists calculated that grizzlies in the west Chilcotin wilderness were rising by 91 bears over a year prior. So certain bureaucrats appear to have seen that as support for a proposed mine.  

“[By] all accounts there’s a few critters to spare, but my question is whether they might be kept handy to help mitigate a new mine,” wrote Gerry MacDougall, a wildlife manager with the Forests, Lands and Natural Resources ministry, at the time.

“Do you know if anyone connected those dots for [the Minister’s] consideration?” he asked.

Assistant Deputy Minister Richard Manwaring replied: “I don’t know Gerry. It’s an annual [hunting] decision, so we could revisit that for sure if the mine became real I think.” 

An active mine proposal at the time was Taseko’s “New Prosperity” gold-copper project, until it was rejected last year. A federal panel concluded that there “would be a significant adverse cumulative effect on the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population, unless necessary cumulative effects mitigation measures are effectively implemented.”

The mine remains fiercely opposed by the Ts’ilhqot’in Nation, fresh off a Supreme Court land-rights victory.

“Worrisome” use of grizzly data by B.C. government

 

One grizzly bear policy expert growled at what he sees as the province’s odd use of bears for industrial interests.

“This is very worrisome,” reacted Faisal Moola, a forestry professor at the University of Toronto on Thursday.

“They’re using this contested evidence that grizzly bear numbers are increasing, to justify not only a controversial [hunting] activity that a majority of British Columbians are against, but also to justify resource development in those areas as well.”  

“This shows a real lack of understanding of the science,” he added. 

grizzly hunting open 2014 map regions caribou kootenay

Provincial government map of the two areas opened grizzly hunting in 2014: the Caribou and Kootenay Boundary management areas.

In response to questions from the Vancouver Observer on Thursday, a Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesperson disputed that the director was using the bears to promote resource development.

“[The] interpretation of this email is inaccurate,” said Bethel. 

Rather, Bethel stated, the wildlife director was inquiring “as to whether other impacts to bear populations (such as habitat disturbance from mining) were also factored into consideration before allowing a Limited Entry Hunt.”  

In other emails discussing how to brief Minister Bennett, the same wildlife director repeated the idea that the alleged uptick in grizzly population numbers could be used as a way to mitigate resource-extraction impacts. 

“If there is a harvestable surplus [of grizzlies] the Minister of Forestry Lands and Natural Resources could consider those to offset the cumulative effects of resource development,” he wrote.

The presumption of a “surplus” of grizzlies is not shared by everyone. Moola, who doubles as a director general with the David Suzuki Foundation, says scientists doubt the government’s bear count, which suggests there are 15,000 grizzlies in B.C.

A recent study by SFU and the University of Victoria found the province’s grizzly count science had a high degree of uncertainty.

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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.  

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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

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.

The Economics and Ethics of Trophy Hunting by Judith Lavoie

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.

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