BCNature (the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists) along with 38 other environmental groups and organizations are deriding the newly installed provincial government’s announcement regarding the hunting of grizzly bears in B.C.
The measures, they say, are illogical and poorly considered and, according to Dr. Alan Burger, the president of BCNature, there is a belief that the government is trying to fulfill its election campaign promises to end the hunt while still appeasing hunting organizations and related businesses, essentially trying to “push and pull at the same time.”
At the heart of the dispute is the Government’s intention to allow a “meat hunt” of grizzlies in the province while at the same time ending trophy hunting of grizzly bears (as of Nov. 30) and the cessation of all grizzly bear hunting in the Great Bear Rain Forest. The meat hunt would be held in the same way as the trophy hunt it replaces, with hunters entering a draw to allow them to kill bears, but would not allow the taking of any physical trophies (head, paws and claws). hunters will be allowed hunters to take the meat from the carcass. ostensibly for consumption as food.
“This is a thinly veiled way of allowing trophy hunters to continue killing these magnificent animals, and only the nature of the trophy will change,” said Burger.
He maintained that, instead of taking physical trophies from the actual carcasses of the bears they shoot, some hunters will be happy to continue shooting grizzlies and take away video and photographs of them posing with the dead bears as their trophy, along with the ‘bragging rights’ of having killed a large animal.
“The whole idea of having a draw for a ‘meat hunt’ is illogical’. There has never been any significant hunting of grizzly bears for meat in B.C.. In the past grizzlies were classified by BC Fish and Wildlife as non-game animals, like wolverines, wolves and cougars. We’re appalled that the government has now invented a grizzly bear meat hunt as a work-around to allow the continued hunting of grizzlies while presenting the pretense of ending the hunt,” said Burger.
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development responded to requests for comment with a statement that said, “Ending the grizzly bear trophy hunt, while still allowing a hunt for food, acts on our platform commitment. The vast majority of people in B.C. have the point of view that the grizzly bear trophy hunt is not a socially acceptable practice in B.C.”
But according to Burger, that is a cynical response at best.
“It isn’t socially acceptable, no matter how you dress it up as a hunt for food. I have talked to several of the people in the Ministry, and clearly this (the implementation of a meat hunt) was a political decision. It was made by the government after they set up what they called a consultation process, but three quarters of the groups consulted were in the business of the consumptive use of wildlife. We were never even invited to participate, up to this point,” said Burger, adding that the consultation process is only concerned with how to manage the meat hunt, ignoring the question of whether a meat hunt should exist at all.
There are several reasons for the grizzly bear hunt to be stopped in its entirety, added Burger.
The first of these is that, while the government continues to claim that the grizzly bear hunt is sustainable, independent biologists do not agree.
“We don’t really know how many grizzlies there are in B.C. or how many can be killed without endangering the population. In some regions, like the Southern Cascades, that population is already under tremendous pressure.”
According to the peer-reviewed studies, scientists have found instances of too many bears being shot to allow for the remaining population to survive. Studies have also shown that hunters often kill too many female bears, putting the population under even more stress.
Another reason to protect the bears, said Burger, is rooted in the increasing popularity of grizzly bear viewing and photography businesses in the interior of the province.
“Even from an economic point of view, we are fast approaching the point where there is more money to be made for the provincial economy by letting people come to B.C. to photograph these bears and enjoy the natural wonder of bears in the wild. We don’t have to shoot them to support businesses in the province. All it takes is a change in attitude and perspective.”