BC Almanac – CBC Radio One
Host: Chris Walker
August 17, 2016
Podcast Link: https://t.co/4wyjKaL4XX Interview with Justice for BC Grizzlies’Val Murray and others starts at 17:20min mark.
Some people believe it’s barbaric. For some though it’s a sport. Hunting grizzly bears is a contentious issue in BC. It is legal. Some conservationists think it should be banned. Organizations like Raincoast and Justice for BC Grizzly Bears want to put pressure on the BC Liberals to ban the hunting of these predators. We’d like to hear from you now. Do you hunt for sport? Do you think hunting should remain legal and regulated when it comes to bears, or other animals for that matter? Maybe you think the trophy hunting for grizzly bears should be banned. Maybe not. Give us a call and let us know what you think, around the province. 1-800-825-5950. In the Lower mainland 604-669-3733. On your cell phone * or # 690. You can also tweet us, by the way, at BC Almanac or @ChrisWalkercbc.
We’ve got three quests on the line with us today. We’re joined by Kyle Artelle. He’s a Raincoast Foundation Conservationist and PhD Biology candidate at Simon Fraser University. Good afternoon, Kyle. We’re also joined in our studio in Kelowna by a spokesperson for the BC Wildlife Federation, Jesse Zeman. Good afternoon, Jesse. And finally, we have on the line Val Murray from Justice for BC Grizzlies. Good afternoon, Val. And Val, we’ll start with you. Tell us a bit about Justice for BC Grizzlies and what you’re looking for from the provincial government.
VM: Sure. You bet! Justice for BC Grizzlies is a grassroots movement of concerned citizens and what we want is for the hunt of grizzly bears to become an election issue. And we are galvanizing BC voters around the province; we’re having a really good response. The social consciousness in the province is changing and we’re going to capitalize on that between now and the election.
CW: And why are you opposed to the hunt?
VM: Gosh, there are so many reasons. You know, since bear viewing has become so much higher profile and myself, I went out bear viewing in June with my son to the Great Bear Rainforest, it’s an incredible experience and when you take a look at a map of BC and you see that to the east of BC the grizzlies are threatened or extirpated, to the south they are threatened or extirpated and southern BC they are threatened, you can see that our grizzly bears are under siege. They are moving as far away to the interior and the north as they can and they are meeting roads and trains and cars and hunters’ guns. And places where there’s an abundance of population. That’s because they are making their last stand and they are a species of special concern so the one thing that we can remove is killing them, and that’s what we want to do.
CW: And what specifically are you asking the Liberal government to do? Is it a ban? I know you want to make it an election campaign but what is…what are you…what’s the best case scenario for you?
VM: We want it to end. Forever. No more killing of grizzly bears.
CW: Val, we’ve got it. Thanks very much for joining us. We’ll go now to Kyle who is an SFU Biology candidate and with the Raincoast Conservation group. Kyle, a couple of things that Val said – she says bears are threatened all around BC and under siege. I wonder if you could just address the health of the populations, first of all.
KA: Right, well, the first piece about, sort of, BC in a way being the last stand, if you look at the historic range of the grizzly bear then it’s absolutely true. The grizzly bears were once wide spread – far, far east, far, far south and they have absolutely retracted to the Northwest part of the continent here. So, the trend we’ve seen across North America is this retraction and we’ve seen a similar trend even in BC where they are extirpated from, sort of, that middle part of the province. She was mentioning, from part of the more populated areas and also we’ve seen this, sort of, through time, populations increasingly gaining threatened status, or becoming extirpated. We rarely see any push in the opposite direction. In terms of population status across the board in the province, this is one of these things we just don’t know enough about. There is very little, on the whole, monitoring on the ground. Actually, monitoring populations, seeing if they’re increasing, decreasing, being stable. Across the landscape this is quite a thing to do so it’s almost impossible with any honest certainty to say how the majority of the population are doing in the province.
CW: Ok, let’s go now to Jesse Zeman who’s with the BC Wildlife Federation, who I suspect has a slightly different take on this. Jesse, what do you think of what you’ve heard so far, just in terms of the population and how much pressure there is on that population?
JZ: It, certainly in the southern parts of the province, we do have areas where we have bear populations that are at risk or are endangered. Uh, certainly hunters and habitat conservation trust foundations has put a pile of money into those areas to help restore those populations. Look at the threats, uh, I think cumulative effects, habitat fragmentation, are really holding grizzly bears back in those places. Human/wildlife conflict is holding those bears back and, of course, when we talk about things like Fraser sockeye, you have salmon issues. You have issues with huckleberry production which is the result of fire suppression, so those are the big threats to grizzly bears and certainly, you know, long term landscape level planning is really what we need to start talking about in BC.
CW: And I’m not sure that…I know I don’t understand exactly where the grizzly bear hunt happens in BC. Does it happen in the south? Does it..are there zones? How does it work?
JZ: Yes, we have grizzly bear population management units and essentially, you know, you need a certain number of grizzly bears to meet a threshold to ensure that there’s a hunt. Uh, where we have low abundance we definitely do not have a hunt in those areas. Um, where you don’t have a hunt, that’s a reflection of a grizzly bear population that needs assistance, that needs intervention, that needs long term planning and uh, certainly the AGTF (??), through hunters’ dollars, is paid – over a million dollars in the last five years – to look at those kind of areas; to say “hey, how do we get grizzly bears back so they’re viable?”
CW: I want to touch on that one more time just before we get to callers because there is an argument that the hunter, in fact, helps conservation. I don’t know, that might seem strange to people but I wonder if you could just explain that logic.
JZ: Yeah, absolutely. So, hunters about 20 years ago put up their hand and said, “Hey, we’re paying license fees and tags, we want it to go back in to resourcing.” In terms of BC, it is one of the more underfunded jurisdictions in North America, but at the same time, we’ve put more money into grizzly bear inventory than any other jurisdiction in North America so we’ve spent a lotof money on grizzly bears and it looks about $200k a year that goes into grizzly bear conservation and research that’s a direct result of hunter dollars.
CW: We’ve got, not surprisingly, we’ve got lots of callers ready to go. If you’d like to join the conversation, 1-800-825-5950. In the lower mainland, 604-669-3733. Let’s go first to the Robson Valley where they’re very familiar with grizzly bears in McBride. Page is on the line. Good afternoon, Page.
Page: Hi there, how’s it going?
CW: I’m very well, thank you. What do you think of the calls to ban the grizzly hunt?
Page: Uh, it’s, uh, I’m not happy with it at all. I’m an outdoorsman, a hunter, a guide outfitter and uh, in my experience the government is doing a pretty good job of keeping an eye on the grizzlies already and in the last few years I’ve seen nothing but an increase in the grizzly population in our area, as far as numbers go, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re handling it pretty well. I think what we have now is more than acceptable.
CW: How long have you seen that increase in the McBride area, Page?
Page: I’ve been here my whole life so I’ve been here for 34 years and it’s, to me, it seems like a, not a huge increase but a steady increase and over the last five years I’d say I’ve seen more and more and healthier bears and a better population. And as hunters, uh, I mean, we all value wildlife out here. As far as I’m concerned probably more than most people and I think we’re going a pretty good job of maintaining a good population of most wildlife, especially grizzly bears.
CW: Well, Page, let me put you on the spot, if I can. There are people, people will make, I mean, there’s a conservation argument to be made, and people will make a moral argument that it’s just simply wrong to take the life of an animal like the grizzly bear. How do you counter that opinion?
Page: Well, I understand that we, you know, there is not a requirement to pack out meat but many of us, myself included, do harvest grizzly bear meat and black bear meat and most meat that we take and um, as far as the sport hunting aspect of it goes, it’s part of our history and part of our heritage and, you don’t have to, I don’t expect everybody to agree with me but, uh, it is something that has been here for a long time It feeds my family, it feeds quite a few other families throughout BC and uh, it’s part of my passion and livelihood so, I understand their views too, but I really can’t agree with it.
CW: Page, thanks so much for your call. Let’s go to Kyle Artelle with Raincoast Foundation Conservation group. Uh, Kyle, what do you make of what we heard from Page and kind of echoed by Jesse?
KA: Well, there’s one of the pieces there that we hear, “Well, I’ve been seeing the population increase through time. It’s been a moderate one but I’ve been seeing it increase. Um, I didn’t hear what technologies were used to do this but this is actually a pretty good analogy of how a lot of the monitoring in the province happens, where this “expert opinion which can come from hunters or from managers that just sort of see a difference on the landscape. The problem with this, of course, is seeing more individuals does not necessarily mean the population is increasing in case we might, in fact, we might see in certain areas, if you have a food crash, suddenly bears come in to town or come closer to people in areas where they’ve never been seen before and so you assume the population is increasing when it might not be at all. It might be decreasing and the bears are just facing these external stressors. So, I think we need to take with a grain of salt these kinds of accounts from hunters saying, “Well, there’s lots of bears out there. There’s no concerns. Let’s carry forward because I’ve been seeing a population increase.”
CW: Let’s go back to the phones. Ronda is, has been waiting patiently in Parksville. Good afternoon Ronda.
Ronda: Good afternoon
CW: What do you think of this?
Ronda: Well, I’m totally against killing of grizzly bears, BC grizzlies. I was in a family that did feed ourselves with venison and elk, and we had to. We certainly couldn’t afford beef from the store so that was when I was a kid back in the 1950s. When my husband and I got married in ’67 we hunted, so you know, sometimes they like to classify us as, you know, people who aren’t hunters and don’t understand. So, I certainly do, but it’s long past the time to be killing grizzlies and I believe it is only for sport. I mean, these hunters will say that they pack out the grizzlies but I’d like to know who’s watching. I know how few conservation officers are on the landscape. It’s impossible for them to know anything about what’s happening. And I don’t believe they eat it. I mean, it’s parasitic. I don’t believe they eat it so it’s not for sustenance at all. And, like Justin Trudeau said, “This is 2016”. It’s long past time to be killing grizzlies and they are sentient beings and we aren’t, you know, it’s a lose-lose situation because I actually am in the tourism industry on Vancouver Island where we don’t have grizzlies although four have swam over since the logging started in so-called Wilderness British Columbia. You know, we know all bears are territorial so when they lose their territory they have to find a new one and I totally know that when we starting seeing abundance of animals in areas that they didn’t used to be, that is not a good sign. Animals don’t really love us that much that they want to be near us. (CW laughs) It means that there’s a problem. And same here on Vancouver Island we have a lot of black tailed Columbian deer in town and people have, for years, called it a population explosion -but I know the statistics – but it is actually a decline of black tailed Columbian deer so I imagine it’s the same with the grizzlies and, of course, the hunters saying that they see more, that’s self-interest.
CW: Ronda, we’ve got it for sure. One thing, Ronda said, and she said she just simply doesn’t believe that hunters eat grizzly bears. Jesse, what do you think?
JZ: Yeah, uh, I would certainly challenge that notion. Uh, as someone who has hunted grizzly bears and black bears, uh, we have grizzly bear and black bear meat regularly in the form of ham, sausage, pepperoni. It’s great, uh, the interior grizzly bears eat the exact same diet as black bears. They’re eating huckleberries. In terms of food, it’s a great source. Uh, I think everybody agrees more money for wildlife management, for conservation officers, it’s certainly something we should all be pushing for in BC. Uh, and in terms of planning and looking ahead, that’s something we all want to see. Everybody wants to see viable grizzly bear populations on the landscape and I think that’s where the mature conversation really needs to happen.
CW: Let’s go back to the phones to Jeff in Kelowna who is on the line. Jeff, I understand you are a hunter as well. Good afternoon.
Jeff: Good afternoon. Yeah, I just have maybe a little different perspective. I do hunt but I hunt for food. I don’t think we should have a ban on grizzly hunting per se though I think it should be banned in areas where there’s say, are First Nations that are having, sort of, successful bear watching operations because I think that’s the great, um, sort of, tourism type thing to keep those communities economically viable, but I think focusing on the grizzly hunt distracts us from the bigger issue which is, sort of, the destruction of habitat, poor management of salmon stocks, the impact of climate change on salmon. Those are the things that are really going to endanger the grizzly population. I’m not sure hunting really plays a big role and if we focus on that I think we distract ourselves from the bigger issues and probably do more harm than good to the grizzly population.
CW: Jeff, really interesting point. To mix my animal metaphors, Kyle, is the grizzly bear hunt a red herring?
KA: Right. We do hear this argument and we hear it from the government itself. Uh, for sure there’s lots of other stressors affecting grizzly bear populations but it’s definitely not an either/or issue. And the fact of the matter is the majority of grizzly bear deaths in the province are at the hand of human beings in a legal hunt. And so yes, habitat destruction is, of course, important. Salmon stock concerns are hugely important too, especially coastal bears, Fraser bears, but these are not apart from hunting. This is an additional stress, and how these stressors interact are largely an unknown. So I wouldn’t agree that it’s a red herring. I’d say it’s an additional stressor, an additional important one, um, but one doesn’t sort of negate the other. In fact, they compound one another.
CW: Let’s go to Sue who’s on the line in Burnaby. Good afternoon, Sue. Sue, are you there? Looks like maybe Sue gave up. She was very patient. Let’s go to Brian in Nanaimo who, I think, is one the line. Good afternoon, Brian.
Brian: Good afternoon, Chris.
CW: What do you think of what you’re hearing so far?
Brian: Well, I’m very interested in a lot of the justifications for the hunt. I work with tour operators. I had my own, uh, tour business in the Great Bear Rainforest for many years on the coast here and uh, was one of the early people pioneering bear viewing as a business. And I currently work for two operators working in the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s – all of this begins with an assumption that, you know, whether the management is correct, whether the populations are sufficient, none of this has ever been passed through an ethical lens and you know, within the Great Bear Rainforest there are eleven coastal First Nations who unanimously oppose this; that this is not a question of whether this is meat or whether these are ancestors. And given the reconciliation agreements with the provincial government, it’s pretty astounding that the hunt continues against their own bans, against First Nations ban of grizzly hunting and in the Great Bear Rainforest, particularly considering the massive investments they’ve made and the incredible increase in employment in these First Nations communities. One community has 49 members in a village of less than 300 people working six months a year in their tourism operation, all based on bear viewing. So, the argument about whether you eat it and whether you don’t eat it, I grew up on deer meat myself and I don’t hunt anymore but certainly have sympathy for people who do, but whether you eat this or not, I’ve talked to many, many hunters and guide outfitters as well and they all tell me that they don’t eat it. And so, whatever you’re hearing lately from organizations who are now supporting the requirement to pack the meat out, you don’t have to pack the meat out because of lobbying by those same organizations decades past because they claimed that they don’t eat it. So, all of these arguments around how the hunt is managed and the sustainability of it, it’s never been…it sort of starts from there with the provincial government and within the province and certainly within the people who have travelled with me in the Great Bear Rainforest…it’s absolutely near unanimous opposition to this and why it continues is baffling.
CW: Brian, great to have your perspective. Thanks so much for giving us a call today. If you’d like to join the conversation, we have a few minutes left. 1-800-825-5950; in the Lower Mainland the number is 604-669-3733. On your cell phone * or # 690. Let’s go to Nikita who’s on the line in Burnaby. Good afternoon, Nikita.
Nikita: Good afternoon.
CW: What do you think of this?
Nikita: I suppose I’m kind of right in the middle. I don’t really have an opinion on either side of the fence. But I just did want to bring up a couple of points. One, that your guest who started the conversation by telling us she visited the Great Bear Rainforest with her son, I believe it was, uh, maybe hasn’t taken into consideration the effects of eco-tourism in the Great Bear Rainforest and other parts of British Columbia. I’ve studied travel and tourism business here in this province and I know that the effects of eco-tourism in the environs that the grizzlies live is as great as the ferries that go up and down our coastal waters. And the other thing I wanted to raise is, is that everyone’s talking about it being 2016 and it’s a modern era and that the cull on grizzlies or the hunt on grizzlies should stop and I would just simply refer to First Nations opinion.
CW: Nikita, thanks very much for the call. Kyle, what do you make of….and we haven’t addressed the role of First Nations, especially on the North Coast and the inland areas around Terrace and the Hazeltons. What do you hear from the callers and what do you think of what you’re hearing?
KA: Yeah, I mean, I guess this is a more a question to be answered as a citizen of BC, less as a scientist, but absolutely, um, some of these questions are in fact not scientific and if you’re talking about an era of reconciliation and how something should be managed within territories, unseated territories of which there are many in our province, um, then meaningful engagement with the First Nations within these territories seems a no-brainer and this, to date, has largely not manifested through to on-the-ground management anyway. So, this certainly makes a lot of sense and the broader point again that the conversation is perhaps one not for science in general about this hunt – I think is an important one; I think there’s some confusion where it’s often stated that this is a science-based hunt. We have a couple of studies that have questioned considerably the scientific basis of the hunt. These are open access; they can be seen online just by googling our names and grizzly bear management BC, but science tells us how the world might work, it tells us how the world is expected to work in the future and how populations might be expected to respond to certain stresses, but it can’t tell us how it should work, what we should do, and so a lot of these claims, you know, we should carry forward with this because science says so – and it doesn’t! – that is not a question for science, and I think that’s a really important one. It’s a question for – it’s absolutely an ethics question – it’s a question for the citizens of the province, First Nations, etc. And I think that’s a really important point of where the science begins and ends; to be really transparent with that.
CW: We’ve just got a couple of minutes left so we’re going to try to squeeze in as many callers as we can here to end the half hour. Jim is on the line in Spence’s Bridge. Good afternoon, Jim.
Jim: Good day. Um…I’d like to make a comment suggesting that all grizzly bear hunting south of the Trans-Canada Highway in the central part of the province be halted because there are white grizzlies in that area. I won’t describe exactly where but even a weatherman on a Spokane TV station by the name of Roland, and Roland Adventures, described how he was going searching for the white grizzly north of the border, so I don’t know what the population is like in the rest of the province but the area south of the Trans Canada in the central part of the province should be shut down and the government should be studying the genetics of these animals.
CW: Jim, we’ve got it. Let’s go now to Peter who’s on the line. Good afternoon, Peter.
Peter: Hi there. Yeah, I guess my comment is basically that I don’t agree whatsoever with the grizzly bear hunt. I think that should be completely shut down. I think it’s abhorrent that we’ve got an industry that is basically catering to the Americans so that we can make money off the killing of these beautiful animals. Watching that video the other day of the American fellow who was chucking the javelin at the black bear, spear hunting the black bear, I mean, that’s just the epitome of what’s wrong with hunting. It’s all about the hunter, it’s not about the animals. I don’t buy that it’s a conservation, I don’t buy that people are eating the meat. I do agree with the previous caller. He said it’s high time we put a stop to this. The grizzly bear hunter has no place. You can make way more money showing people these bears than you can killing these bears. Its long term thinking vs short term thinking. It’s 2016. It’s time to stop the hunting of grizzly bears.
CW: Peter, we’ve got it, straight up. Challenge there to your position, Jesse. I wonder if you could, just to wrap us up here, if you could address that.
JZ: Sure. I think that, again, the big picture is how do we ensure we have viable grizzly bear populations on the ground and that’s really the big threat for grizzly bears, is things like cumulative effects, resource extraction, highway mortalities, rail mortalities. I challenge Kyle’s assertion that the majority of grizzly bear deaths are at the hands of the legal hunt. We know in the “Elk” Valley (**I couldn’t hear what he said**) where we’ve had a 40% population decline that the majority of those mortalities are through non-hunting mortality and we know that we have a problem there and that’s something we need to rectify. We also know that the old model that we used was really conservative; that the harvest rate that grizzly bears can sustain is actually much higher than we anticipated and we know that BC is growing really quickly. We know that we’re adding millions of people. We know that we need to start getting serious about grizzly bear conservation and I think, in terms of British Columbia, if we’re going to tell our kids what we did, it’s going to be that we took care of grizzly bears, we ensured that we had wild places for them and wile spaces. I think that’s the big picture.
CW: Jesse, thanks very much. I would imagine Kyle has a slightly different take on what he might tell his kids. Kyle, last word to you.
KA: Yeah, you bet. I just need to answer about the majority of killed being at the hands of humans. Those are government figures. You can get that from the government website. And about the limits being sustainable, again, science has shown that is, in fact, not the case. And these are available in peer-reviewed literature online. So, I would hope I would tell my kids that we started to pay attention to what the science says and cut through some of the rhetoric and yeah, and hope to have conservation that addresses habitat, that addresses all stressors well into the future.
CW: A good conversation today. Thank you both for joining us. We appreciate it. Kyle Artelle is a Raincoast Foundation Conservationist and Simon Fraser University PhD biology candidate. Jesse Zeman is a spokesperson for the BC Wildlife Federation.